Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The three Most Important Things

If life had a priority list, we could wake up every morning and know exactly what needed to be done and in what order. The struggle for balance and symmetry in our daily living is never that cut and dry though. Trying to balance the many facets of family, career, health, and happiness overwhelm all of us at one time or another.
I find myself struggling to organize these same areas of my characters lives as I write. What do the reader's need to know. What part of the journey is happening and when. Who is important and who is just marking time.
All of these elements can clog and confuse a writers mind as we struggle to lay out a story with appeal and organization. Often I find myself writing story arc's and synopsis' just so I can fill out what should be happening, and where,  in a story.
This last week end I attended a writers bootcamp where the speaker taught some of the writing techniques of the Buddhist writer; Natalie Goldberg.
It was a fast paced 8 hours of more writing and learning than I have done in a while. I have included some topics by Natalie that if you google them you can access her techniques. 

natalie goldberg writing exercises

natalie goldberg the great failure

natalie goldberg writing down the bones
At the end of this conference, I was emotionally and mentally exhausted, but overflowing with idea's and techniques that would drive my characters, my stories, and my scenes to their fullest potential.
Participating in timed writing exercises where we named our protagonist, antagonist, helper, and catalyst. laid out the bones of the story. Focusing this exercise into The first, The next, and The Last time we saw each of these characters in the story laid out the emotional journey. Discussing the driving forces in each of these characters was probably the most eye opening of the exercises for me though.
It all boils down to three things.
-What does this character, scene, story, or setting want?
-What do they need?
-What can't they have?
The wants in these situations set up the movement in the scene or story. Character X arrives and does Y because he/she wants...
It determines what questions are asked, what movements are made and where the story or scene is going.
The needs are the emotional journey. Why is this so important, Why now, and Why with these characters
What they can't have creates urgency, a reason for the reader to keep reading. Are you unsatisfied, desperate, or frustrated because you don't have enough information...Good. Those are your can't have's.
There is no barrier to writing a novel, short story, synopsis, or outline if you can list the answers to those three questions
What do you want, need, and can't have.
The bootcamp I attended was conducted by Jack Remick, an author, teacher, and brilliant writer. He conducts writing exercises with a group of talented writers in the greater Seattle, WA are and was kind enough to spread his techniques to my little corner of the Mojave
desert. You can find out more about Jack and his work at or through his publisher CoffeeHouse Press.
If you find yourself struggling to make your characters or stories better, or if you just want to develop your talents into better writing; Find out what the answers to those three questions are.
In the meantime...Do any of you have problems in your books you can't figure out how to overcome? What techniques help you?

1 comment:

  1. I've always loved doing character interviews when I get stuck in a scene. I'm also so glad you taught me about this because it works, too!