I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m going to mention it again: I love character-driven stories. Stories where the action and plot are determined by the characters; their motivations and hang-ups. In order to write stories like that, it’s important to make sure you’re writing character motivations well.
Fortunately, the lovely folks over at Now Novel have some advice for that:
1: Give each character their own contrasting motivation
2: Use character motivations founded on rational and irrational beliefs
3: Decide how aware your characters will be of their own motivations
4: Let characters’ drives develop as new plot events occur
5: Don’t give characters what they want too easily
6: Try to be subtle in revealing what drives your characters
7. Make motivations complex to increase readers’ interest
Each one of these points is expanded upon in the full post, so head on over and take a look if you’re interested.
I discovered a new source of thinkering* last night, by way of Robert Frost’s poem, The Black Cottage. I don’t know why it isn’t one of his famous ones, because as far as I’m concerned, it’s fabulous, and I highly recommend following the link and reading the whole poem.
For the purposes of today’s little inspiration jolt, however, I’m focusing on two lines:
“Most of the change we think we see in life
Is due to truths being in and out of favor.”
Now, I probably should have waited a few weeks to blog about this, because my thoughts haven’t really had enough time to simmer and synthesize. But I’m just too interested in the ideas contained in these lines NOT to share them with you.
The fact is, truths are universal. No matter the time period or culture, what is true is not a matter of opinion. That would belie the whole concept and definition of truth. Truths do, however, go in and out of favor, depending on the reigning zeitgeist.
*thinkering. It’s a portmanteau of thinking and tinkering. As far as I know, I just invented it. I’m so clever, I know.
“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Living to Tell the Tale
This is important. It may be an oversimplification, but it is important. Yes, things happen that shouldn’t happen. Injustice is a real part of our broken world. But some people manage to rise above circumstances, while others are held back by them, forever tied down by the past, present, and possible future. And how we choose to remember what happens has a major effect on the shape and direction of our lives.
Apart from the personal moralizing, this could also make for a great internal journey for a character… something to think about, anyway.
Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
There is a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm
And in a town that is no more a town.
The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct you
Who only has at heart your getting lost,
May seem as if it should have been a quarry—
Great monolithic knees the former town
Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.
And there’s a story in a book about it:
Besides the wear of iron wagon wheels
The ledges show lines ruled southeast-northwest,
The chisel work of an enormous Glacier
That braced his feet against the Arctic Pole.
You must not mind a certain coolness from him
Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain.
Nor need you mind the serial ordeal
Of being watched from forty cellar holes
As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.
As for the woods’ excitement over you
That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves,
Charge that to upstart inexperience.
Where were they all not twenty years ago?
They think too much of having shaded out
A few old pecker-fretted apple trees.
Make yourself up a cheering song of how
Someone’s road home from work this once was,
Who may be just ahead of you on foot
Or creaking with a buggy load of grain.
The height of the adventure is the height
Of country where two village cultures faded
Into each other. Both of them are lost.
And if you’re lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
Then make yourself at home. The only field
Now left’s no bigger than a harness gall.
First there’s the children’s house of make-believe,
Some shattered dishes underneath a pine,
The playthings in the playhouse of the children.
Weep for what little things could make them glad.
Then for the house that is no more a house,
But only a belilaced cellar hole,
Now slowly closing like a dent in dough.
This was no playhouse but a house in earnest.
Your destination and your destiny’s
A brook that was the water of the house,
Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,
Too lofty and original to rage.
(We know the valley streams that when aroused
Will leave their tatters hung on barb and thorn.)
I have kept hidden in the instep arch
Of an old cedar at the waterside
A broken drinking goblet like the Grail
Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it,
So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn’t.
(I stole the goblet from the children’s playhouse.)
Here are your waters and your watering place.
Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.
My mostest favoritest poem by Robert Frost. Also his most Eliot-ish. I wonder if there’s a correlation there?
Also my Introvert Manifesto. Let me draw your particular attention to the lines,
“And if you’re lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
Then make yourself at home.”
Makes me want to cry in the best possible way.
Don’t even talk to me about the last two lines.
It’s World Poetry Day, you guys. This is a fantastic piece of serendipity, because I have some poetry to share with you guys. Not my own poetry. I won’t disrespect the day like that. Milton’s poetry.
I’ve been slowly working my way through Paradise Lost, which is absolutely amazing, and at its best when read aloud. This morning I began Book VII, which is a picture of how the universe was created, and got so enthralled that I brought it along with me and read it out to the weird little creature I get to hang out with twice a week while his family is away.
I don’t think he has much appreciation for poetry, to be quite honest. So I’m going to try a bit of it on you and see what happens. This bit happens to be when God separates light from darkness.
Let there be light; said God, and forthwith light
Ethereal, first of things, quintessence pure,
Sprung from the deep, and from her native east
To journey through the airy gloom began,
Spher’d in a radiant cloud, for yet the sun
Was not; she in a cloudy tabernacle
Sojourn’d the while. God saw the light was good;
And light from darkness by the hemisphere
Divided: light the day, and darkness night
He nam’d. Thus was the first day even and morn.
Nor pass’d uncelebrated, nor unsung
By the celestial choirs, when orient light
Exhaling first from darkness they beheld;
Birth-day of heaven and earth, with joy and shout
The hollow universal orb they fill’d,
And touch’d their golden harps, and hymning prais’d
God and his works, Creator him they sung,
Both when first evening was, and when first morn.
There. Isn’t that gorgeous? There’s plenty more where that came from, too, but I’ll spare you such a lengthy post as this could easily become.
Good gosh, that was some funky syntax. I’m going to leave it though.
“No matter who you are, no matter where you live, and no matter how many people are chasing you, what you don’t read is often as important as what you do read.”
-Lemony Snicket, Horseradish
A little follow-up on my last post.
By the way, if you haven’t read Horseradish yet, you totally need to.
Have I mentioned how much I love Coldplay? I love Coldplay.
Chris Martin may sing about not seeing himself on a list of mythological supermen, but as far as I’m concerned, he has a definite Midas thing going on artistically speaking.
Plus, this video is bright and colorful and there is confetti involved.
Hug one of those cute little solo flyers today. Or better yet, buy them flowers. Or chocolate.
Send some to me.
Anyways, I know it’s clichéd by now, but look… there’s a reason Sonnet 116 is so famous. Read it. Out loud.
Or if the weird Elizabethan spelling is too funky for you,
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
I mean, it’s like listening to a stream. Gorgeous.
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.”
— T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”
Nice thought, isn’t it, that we can enter a new year with a fresh voice, leaving behind us all the mustiness of the things we did last year? Of course, my practical brain is reminding me that nobody changes overnight, and we all live with the consequences of the things we’ve done, good or bad. But even so, we don’t have to respond to things in the same way as we have before, and we can change the trajectory of our lives any time we want to.
As much as I tend to be wary and cynical about things like New Year’s Resolutions, I am a big fan of taking stock of my last year, analyzing it for things I did right, so I can continue to grow those things; and things I did wrong, so I can change my course. Invariably, it leaves me feeling more hopeful, knowing that even though I may have screwed up royally hundreds of times, I am not doomed to continue in a downward spiral. A new year gives us all the chance of a new voice.
“Of this there can be no question — creative work requires a loyalty as complete as the loyalty of water to the force of gravity. A person trudging through the wilderness of creation who does not know this — who does not swallow this — is lost.”
–Mary Oliver, “Of Power and Time”
Apparently, the poet Mary Oliver has written a book of essays, entitled Upstream.
I must find this book.