Making Your Writing Better
Character Interiority and in sentence suspense
Last week I started talking about showing your character’s inner emotions on the page. And guess what? It’s now officially a series.
That sounds like I’m earning massive amounts of money and this discussion will be on Netflix soon, but I actually just meant right here. :)
Again, you want to show the character’s emotions because readers usually hook into that, relate to that, and it keeps them reading.
IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT NODDING AND SMILING
So, this is another really important aspect of interiority and showing emotions.
You can’t just do it via the smile, the shrug, the frown and the nod.
And actually, you want to try to stay away a bit from the cliché.
There are so many hearts thumping in some thrillers and romance novels that there needs to be a cardiologist on call.
Or as Mary Kole says,
“I don’t care that there are tears. I care about the thought that finally makes them fall.”
It all hooks into the inner workings of your character and their yearnings and wants and the ancient trauma/drama that’s blocking them from getting their goals or evolving emotionally.
The thing is that if everything is about the body reacting to things, we often forget about the soul or the spirit or the mind and the responses and the writing becomes formulaic.
How does this translate to the page?
You have to really focus on the key things that are driving the character Some coaches/editors like Kole wisely say to become the character’s therapist.
“Often, I jokingly refer to myself as a character therapist. Because I’m always sitting on my imaginary couch and asking, “And? So? How did that feel?” My notes to clients are littered with these questions.
“Remember that your character is not an impartial security camera, recording events. Even in third person. We are going through their story because we want to know what the story is, sure, but because we also want to know how said story affects them. There’s a reason (or at least, there really should be) you chose that particular character to experience that particular story. How does one influence the other? That is what readers will attach to.”
That works for a lot of people. It does not work for me because then I try to solve my characters problems right there on an outside document rather than living it through them on the page of the story.
What I do is this:
I pretend I’m them. I lose my own self to them. It’s like acting, but through your typing fingers though I’ve been known to grimace while writing a character through something horrifying or flush when my character is embarrassed.
Why this works for me? I’m not self-aware enough to completely know, but I think it has to partially do with what I want as a reader.
As a reader I don’t want to analyze the character. As a reader I want to live through that character.
Apparently, as a writer that’s what I need to do too in order to put that character’s interior landscape, their interiority in there.
Character interiority is all about making the reader feel it. To do that you have to understand the character, maybe ask it those therapy questions on the couch, but you also have to live it, live them, on the page.
I’ll be continuing this series this week, too!
A PLACE TO SUBMIT!
Hunger Mountain Review Call for Submissions (Deadline April 30)
We publish fiction, nonfiction, poetry, hybrid work, and translations of all of these forms. We welcome work that is genre-less and the traditional genres some magazines shun—yes, that means we want more speculative fiction! We don’t believe in the divide between literary and genre fiction. We want to read your science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, ecofabulism, irrealism and slipstream.
We want writing that explores, questions, and challenges. We want writing that remains open. We want work that thinks about what it’s trying to do for others and the world. Writing submitted to us will be thoroughly and open-heartedly read, and unlike many literary journals, we reserve roughly 50% of each issue for unsolicited work.
CRAFT EXERCISE - In Sentence Suspence!
This exercise comes from Matt Bell via the Porter House Review.
The exercise comes from this line, which is from the short story, “The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado.
“I have imagined a lot of things in the dark, in my bed, beneath the weight of that old quilt, but never this, and I moan.”
LINKS FROM LAST WEEK AND LINKS ABOUT CHARACTER INTERIORITY
SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION MOMENT
I am teaching another session at the Writing Barn coming up soon, and I’ve forgotten to talk about it!
Here’s the tweet they put out. (I’m that black and white person in the bottom corner, sort of blending in.)
Come at any stage of your publishing journey for the FREE WSS info session on 2/20!
WSS courses guide writers through every aspect of literary life, including submitting. We offer classes for writers of novels, memoirs, and kids lit. Register here: https://thewritingbarn.com/class/write-submit-support-free-info-inspiration-session/
There’s also a free night about it coming up.
Join us from 6-7:30 CST on February 20 for a FREE Write. Submit. Support. Info and Inspiration night.
WSS provides one-on-one instruction with acclaimed teachers. Six month WSS courses guide writers to achieve their goals. Register here: https://thewritingbarn.com/class/write-submit-support-free-info-inspiration-session/…
Write Better Now! is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. Thank you so much for being here with me!