This is a day where the week crept on me. I’m suddenly going, “Wait, it’s Thursday? How’d that happen?” I end up just getting some Twitter and the post below done.
I set a copy of all my files to dump on an external hard drive. There have been some stories in the news about ransomware lately. Everything I have is on OneDrive and I pay for automatic backup. And I’m doing one more that’s disconnected from online.
Tonight is my writing meeting. That’s always a lot of fun, though I miss the in-person one we used to do pre-COVID.
If you want to jump on board with working on your characterization skills, I have a launch point. There’s a huge iceberg under it. Once you begin this, it’ll make you realize how much you don’t know.
Every time you open a scene, anchor it in the setting through your character’s voice, using description. You could probably do 2-3 sentences. Sounds, sights, smells if you can, but use your character’s opinion of what they’re experiencing.
The challenge of this is that most writers are taught to write description as a separate entity. A description exercise might tell you to describe an outdoor market and get the five senses in—but omit that a POV character should be behind that. Instead, the writer ends up with such lifeless description that everyone then says to keep description to a minimum because it doesn’t move the story forward.
You’ll need to do all five senses every 2 pages, which you can use the setting for. Yes, including taste. The POV character’s continuously interacting with their setting, just like you do in real life. So you can circle back a little later and 2-3 sentences more.
Character’s crossing the street. A truck chugs past, spewing bitter smoke (if you haven’t guessed, smell can veer into taste).
Character describes someone he is meeting with: Sherbert sheath dress, ice pick silver heels, cloying perfume.
A mouth-watering smell of hot dogs burning on a grill makes your character veer off his intended path, reminded he forgot lunch again. Hot smoke billows off a sizzling grill, hot dogs lined up dress right dress. (If you caught it, two details sneaked in to tell the reader about your character. He’s focused, and he was in the military.)
Once your muse starts playing with this kind of stuff, you’ll find it’s a lot of fun. Because discovering who that character is through what they experience is ice cream with chocolate and sprinkles for the pantser. (Grammarly wants “More pants”).
References to read:
- Dwight Swain’s Creating Characters: How to Build Story People.
- Writing and Selling Your Novel from Jack Bickham (he learned from Swain)
- Dean Wesley Smith’s Depth workshop