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Day Seven: A learning process November 7, 2012

Posted by thejinx in enduring chaos, nanowrimo, writing.
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One of the most basic pieces of advice you will find for aspiring authors is to show, not tell. Portray a character’s feelings and personality through their dialogue and reactions, rather than by simply narrating to the reader.

It’s a good strategy. It is, in fact, far more telling of a character for a reader to be given insight into their mind through what they do. Certainly, one can build strong characters through telling; done well, it can help give the reader a better idea of the character’s motivations, or at least expand on what is portrayed through their actions, and it can be written fluidly, in a way that is pleasing to read. But it is far more effective, and more memorable, to show instead.

However, it’s not always the easiest thing to do. In fact, this is an issue that has come up numerous times in my NaNoWriMo novel already. Character reactions are getting more intricate; characters were already established in the first book, and weren’t necessarily simple then either, and now the events of that book are affecting what they do in this one. The level of complexity is rising and figuring out how to show what the characters are feeling and thinking has been a challenge.

Two major characters are surrounded by people with whom they’re not comfortable talking about their problems. Both are dealing with history too familiar to the people they speak with for it to come up in conversation. One is avoiding another character for fear of being rejected. The other is an outsider in a small, enclosed society and rarely converses much with the others in this group, or anyone else.

How does one show such delicate – yet important – feelings without it sounding forced or contrived? It’s easy to simply present these issues to the reader as a narrator, as background for the conversations and reactions the characters do have, and that’s what I’ve been doing so far.

However, it does feel like something of a cop-out. For the sake of increasing word count, I have decided not to worry about it this month, but I will need to address and put serious thought into this issue when I get around to editing the novel. In the meantime, I am learning things about the characters and what they are feeling right now, and it allows me room to expand on their thoughts without carefully plotting out each line of dialogue and each movement before I write it to ensure it’s showing exactly what I want to say about the character.

It’s a bit refreshing, as I feel like I’ve truly accepted the spirit of NaNoWriMo in continuing to write even knowing that I am getting little more than a framework of a novel out of this attempt, rather than a rough but more or less finalized first draft as I tend to do with NaNoWriMo.

The writing has picked up a bit this week as well. Since Monday, I have made my personal goal of writing 2,000 words each day to build up a buffer for this coming weekend, during which I don’t expect I shall be able to write much. I keep getting drawn to a part about halfway through the story that I have been looking forward to writing for months, rather than working on the linear story as I usually do, but I’ve managed to keep the latter going as well.

As for tomorrow? Well, I’m sure I’ll learn something else new about this novel then.

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