What book characters have become real to you?
When the Good Fairy waves her magic wand, Fairy Dust flies and "POOF" Pinnochio becomes a real boy. Easy for her, right? Wave. Sparkle. Poof. But did you ever stop to think about where this Magic Fairy Dust comes from?
Well. . . I'll tell ya what. One thing that I've learned from this workshop is that this natural resource is not easily mined. Mined. That's right. The stuff that Magic Fairy dust is made of comes deep from the caverns that many do not dare to go and this Fairy dust isn't just handed over, you have to work for it. . . and in our very first morning session, Rich Wallace led us there. Let me explain:
This is where it started. From this cozy living room on a warm country morning, Rich led us into the depths of our memories; that dark forbidden place where Fairy Dust is born. The magic that can turn a paper character in to a flesh and blood person to whom we can relate.
Rich's advice to us was this: Use the emotional heat from your experience and give it to your characters.
You don't have to make every story a direct experience from your life. But you can add the feelings of anticipation, sadness, love, etc. pluck it out of your life and add it to whatever circumstance is in your story.
Rich also told us to put ourselves inside of each of your characters heads. Even the antagonist. Because to have a believable antagonist, he/she needs to seem real to the reader. So, instead of having just a skeletal villan, we need to put flesh and blood on his bones. Since we tend to hate our own antagonists and want the reader to hate him/her, we tend to only think of them as bad. But to give the antagonist more depth, Rich suggests that we ask ourselves this: "What do you like best about your antagonist?"
Rich led us through an exercise where we were to think of a life changing moment from our past. First we were to list details that we remember; emotions, those involved, sensory details, words spoken, etc.
Once we made our list of details, we went back and wrote the memory in story form. Then we each shared our memory with the group. This was like a therapy session. I think if Rich had not become a writer he may have very well made a good therapist. We all reconnected to that time in our life and the emotion showed in our voices. Many of us even cried.
Our final assignment was to take the emotion from that moment in our lives and start a new story that involved the emotions we had just dug up. (I'll share more about what I came up with in a later post.)
This was such an awesome exercise and it was interesting to hear how each of the other ladies processed their emotions.
But mining a memory and putting it into a story isn't easy. You may not want to go back and face certain emotional moments. You may not want to put those feelings into a story for fear of showing a more vulnerable side of yourself. You may even come out liking something about your antagonist and relating to him/her even though you really don't want to.
So. Next time you read a book where a character or scene moves you, one where you can relate and connect. . . I'd say that you'd better bet your bippy that the author had to face a struggle to mine those gems and graft them into the story.
It's not easy, but ohhhhh. . . the difference it makes!
For me, One of the most memorable characters that I've read lately is Katniss from "The Hunger Games" Even though I've never been in her situation, I feel like she was written in a way that I can relate and feel for her. I wanted to stay with her through the whole ride.
What are some of the most memorable characters that you've encountered?