There was a great post on September 12th at One Hand Typing where Mardougrrl talked about some of the ideas Robert Olen Butler lays out in From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction. I was so intrigued that I bought the book and so far, I am captivated by his thought processes. There are things in this book that I’d not previously read in other books on writing and I feel like light bulbs are going off every time I read a new chapter.
Note on this book: Based on many of the Amazon reviews, a lot of readers are put off by
My first epiphany was about what
There is something about the way that
We can write great characterization, describe emotion, attitudes, opinions, and ideas but many times we overlook that major component – desire-- that is at the core of narrative and plot; that drives them.
It’s usually more subtle in contemporary fiction than it is in genre fiction, but it’s just as critical. Our characters yearn for love, for a sense of belonging, for success, respect, a home, community, friendship, acceptance, revenge, forgiveness, a mother, a father, a child, God, the past, escape from the past – literally dozens of possibilities.
What the characters yearn for is typically never stated. The reader and I suspect more often than not, the writer discovers early on what the character yearns for through our narrative descriptions and through the character’s thoughts and actions. I suspect it’s not something most writers are conscious of from the beginning.
For me, this was a Wyle E. Coyote moment – a cartoon anvil with the word “yearning” dropped out of the sky and landed on me. It gave me a true – holy @#$% moment. It all became clear to me why some contemporary novels seem to fall flat and it’s a huge reason why I often (OK always) struggle in my own writing. Knowing what my characters yearn for answers so many questions and solves so many problems for me, I just had to sit down and think about it. In the case of what I’m working on now, it was obvious – once I asked myself the question.
How much do you consciously think about what each of your characters yearns for? How much do you think it impacts everything else in your story?