Carol Brennan King
Well, here we are, notes from two classes for the price of one, and we’ll start with the morning class, Creative Writing
Crafting Characters as Human Beings in Fiction
Review: Roles the author plays:
- We talked earlier about how you as the narrator are a character or player in the story of what happened in the past.
- Then you are the interrogator/ think reporter gathering information and asking questions of the people in the story.
- Finally, and perhaps most critically, your key role is as the interpreter of those stories.
Draw out of the well of your own emotions and experiences. Let’s try it!
- Consider a time when you felt grief. What provoked it and how would someone have known you were grieving? What did it look like?
- Consider a time when you felt betrayed. What happened to make you feel that way and how did it change your behavior? How did you express or want to express those feelings? What would it look like?
- Consider a time when you felt joy inexpressible. What provoked that feeling and what did you do with all of that emotion? Think of how you would show that on your face and with your actions.
- Consider a time when you felt successful or were were recognized for a success. Why did this happen and what did you do with that emotion? How did it or could it have changed you? Think the moment you learned about the good news and how did your face and body respond?
- Consider a time you were disappointed by another person or by the outcome of a great effort. What did you do or what did you want to do with that disappointment? Paint the scene with words.
- Consider a time when you very much wanted something, but it went to a colleague or friend or relative. How did you respond both internally and externally?
Why might a character want something, something they want so much they are seriously physically and emotionally invested in that desire? We are looking at motivation. Think of several possibilities.
Know the nature of that wish/desire and why it’s there. This desire infiltrates every aspect of the character’s life. Think about how. Write a few lines showing this rather than writing,
“Shelley wanted her name on that desk up front. She could imagine the brass plate even now, Shelley Anderson, Administrator. She had her business degree and she was going to show her father she could be more than a wife with a bunch of kids. First she had to get some new clothes, she thought. Barbra dressed like an administrator, and Shelley determined to go shopping with her.”
Start with the desire and let this help you figure out what is going on internally. Then you will be able to create characters who are relatable and believable.
Now consider how you would write a character as he or she went through that emotion.
Memoir/ Nonfiction Class
How do you show the character of someone who already exists? Your job is to do justice to the person by remembering your own experience and memory of that person is unique.
Tell the story through your eyes at the age you were when the events happen. You may decide to change this later, but doing it the first time may unlock some memories.
Use action to illustrate character. Keep it in the moment and from your perspective. What did this person do that made you feel a certain way about him or her? Think of specific events.
Did that person ever do something to change your mind about that first or early opinion?
Think about how children may see things through a lens of innocence, or
sometimes not. How about your memories and opinions of the person you are writing about? Think about your early opinions and concept of that person and what it was like as you matured.
Occasionally you will have to tell something, describe something or set the scene. But try hard to show it first.
Then when you must use exposition, remember no more than a paragraph!
Think or brainstorm about how you can set the scene without exposition.
Roles the author plays:
We talked earlier about you as the narrator are a character or player in the story of what happened in the past.
Then you are the interrogator asking questions of the people in the story.
Finally, your key role is as the interpreters of those stories.
Remember, there are also three dimensions of your subject and your relationship with him or her.
- There is the subject/character portrayed and/or examined.
- There is the character of the author or narrator, even if he or she is not the overt subject. Does this person have prejudices? Examine yourself.
- There is the author’s own sense of who the subject is, and it may not be accurate in the beginning and may evolve over the course of the work.
- As a nonfiction writer, you may omit some element of the person you are writing about, but you may never invent anything. For instance, you might omit the fact that the person wore braces, but you can say he or she was born with a perfect smile.
- Remember, you are the author and are putting your relationship with the subject on display to be examined. Read your own work out loud and closely a day or more after you have written it, so you can be a bit more objective.
- Remember when you are talking to or researching the subject, the author and the subject both know the author is the researcher or hunter. If the subject is alive. So be a close listener, remembering your subject may be tempted to put his or her own slant on things to look well.
Nonfiction invites the reader to consider what motivates the author, whether it is revealed in words or the way the author presents the material, using tone and syntax, or the way the words are arranged in the sentence.
Assignments: Write two pages showing a situation where your character or someone you remember when that person does something that reveals something about him or her. Note: the emphasis is on the showing. Be ready to tell the class afterwards what your point in that scene was.