So I was reading a lovely book last weekend called Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott, we were on our final camping trip of the season – Hence why I didn’t post last Friday, sorry! – and I had brought the book along for a tryout. (It had been one of my assigned readings in college that I really didn’t *ahem* have time to read.) Turns out, I should have read it back in junior year because it was amazing! Such a wonderful book about writing, it was a how-to without being a “how-to,” written in a clean friendly style with tons of writing humor in it. I highly suggest it.
Anyway, while reading the book, I discovered a chapter on characters. It covered the usual points of interest: how you should always know about your characters, find everything out about them even the smallest of details, but it also went into detail about how you should let them go their own way, let them grow, how sometimes they might surprise you. Well since then I never had a surprising moment with my characters, usually I knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing and saying, how they acted and reacted, what they wore to bed at night and why. Everything was pretty much set in stone.
Yet (not to sound too overly dramatic… but here I go anyway), everything changed for me that afternoon. I actually had a revelation concerning novel’s my character! She’s not trying to “just survive,” no one is trying to “just survive,” she’s actively trying to survive so she can be a part of a group, a family of sorts, a love-interest to someone else. She’s trying to survive so she can belong! It was monumental for me because up until that point I was just making her survive the events. Not in order to belong anywhere, for real, just to survive the hell she was in. It was such an obvious motivator that I haven’t the faintest idea why I didn’t see it before!
Then, as if that wasn’t mind-boggling enough, I had another one! This morning, at around 12:30 at night, it was pitch black in my room, I was laying on my bed attempting to go to sleep and I blinked. (I literally remember blinking and *poof*) There it was, the reason why my main character is so troubled, the theme/message/whatever you want to call it that I want portray to others in my novel, heck, the revelation I want my girl to go through within the novel and the means to make her see it. It was amazing. I spent the next forty minutes scribbling madly on post-it notes, praying that the mechanical pencil wouldn’t run out of lead, and cursing wondering why the heck I didn’t have actual sheets of paper beside my bed like usual. It was pretty intense.
The crazy thing is… I went from reading a book about surprises and wishing I had some with my characters, wondering what it would feel like and kind-of doubting it ever happens to anyone, to having two in one week and being really really excited about it. Honestly, I don’t know if they will pan out but I’m so glad that I experienced those moments of clarity.
So I highly recommend this book, it is now my good luck charm for writing. I don’t know if it’ll work for you, but it’s certainly a good read.