Enjoy the Discovery in Writing – and Seek Direction When You Need It

While struggling to make my protagonist believable and to strengthen my plot, I often find myself going back to books I purchased long ago. One book on my go-to list is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s JourneyMythic Structure for Writers. Going back to reread chapters can get you through your stalled out periods.

I was introduced to this book several years ago by someone in a writers’ group – best recommendation ever. Understanding the archetypes, either as additional characters in your story or as different aspects of the main character, helps you create a multi-dimensional protagonist, or hero, as identified in this book. I choose the dimensions I feel will best highlight my character’s personality and how he or she deals with, and grows as a result of, conflict.

The diagrams are a nice quick reference – AFTER you have read the appropriate chapters. I use them to spot check my progress in my plot and to make sure I’ve hit the highlights of the character growth arc.

Don’t get me wrong, this book doesn’t provide a shortcut or blueprint for writing, although some people may think so. The author’s epilogue (I own the 2nd edition) stresses that very strongly. Vogler states, “The needs of the story dictate its structure.”

He encourages the writer to NOT to follow the guidelines in the book too rigidly. “The joy of a journey is not reading or following a map, but exploring unknown places and wandering off the map now and then.”

If you have a strong storyline and you absolutely know who your protagonist is, go for it. Have faith in yourself and enjoy the discovery!

Be Strong Enough to Delete Your Favorite Words or Phrases

This sentiment – instruction/warning/encouragement – was given by a professor during a  writing class many years ago…

I’m on a roll. The words flow so easily. I can’t type fast enough to get them out of my head and into the laptop. Wiping the sweat from my brow, I even use the thesaurus. I add a little touch of humor to ease the lengthy dramatic scene.  Finally, I stop and take a deep breath – yeah – that felt good.

I stand and stretch, take a victory lap into the kitchen for a refill on my coffee (or wine). Then I sit back down and read what I just wrote. As I’m about to go on to the next scene, a niggling little worry prevents forward progress. I read the scene again. It works – sort of…if I don’t pay too much attention to the overwritten bit right there in the middle of the last paragraph.

But the WORDS, that turn of phrase is very CLEVER. True, its not actually needed right here. Try as I might, I can’t bring my finger down on the Delete key. So, I just highlight the content in question and keep going. Two pages later, I go back and read the section again. It’s really not so bad. I read it aloud. Then I read the paragraph without the highlighted content.

Eek. That works much better. No amount of cleverness can make up for the fact that  something just doesn’t work. I have to take it out, I have to. I cut the offending sentences…and then paste the discards into another document so I don’t lose any of my brilliance.

After all, what doesn’t work in one piece might work elsewhere. I can only hope.

When the Climactic Scene Isn’t Quite Right

I’ve been working on this novel for a couple of years now…yes, years. (I let my day job and the DVR get the better of me most days.) I have completed everything but that climactic scene. I just can’t get it right.

All fiction writers find themselves in the same predicament at one time or another. I’ve long since given up on perfection – just not in my game plan. BUT, each scene has to feel right – feel true to my characters’ journey through the storyline.

I’ve built up the tension through several chapters. The “big battle” comes at just the right time and all main characters have their roles to play. My protagonist must be pushed to her limits, must battle internal self doubt and false confidence as well as the external threats, both physical and mental, of the antagonist.

I’ve written the scene, at least in part, four times already. Each time I found something wrong with it, not enough emotional turmoil, not enough spectacle, too many characters involved, it occurs in the wrong location, and so on. Something is just not RIGHT.

I’ve sought inspiration from books of all genres, and many were, indeed, inspiring. Oddly enough, though, I must admit that history, science, and paranormal studies in the form of books and TV shows (love that DVR) have provided quite a bit of fuel this past week for my desperate brain.

I think I’m on to something now. The plan for lunch time all this week is to work on that scene. And I’m going to get it right. Eventually.

Regaining the Passion to Write

For me, that fire to write – write anything, a poem, a short story, play, pages in my novels, even ideas for any creative piece – began to fade over a decade ago. I was devastated and embarrassed after a very bad experience with my first, and only, published work.

For a few years, attending writing classes at a local college and participating in a small writers’ critique group kept me going. I thought I’d rewrite the book – it wasn’t exactly a polished work of art, anyway – or start another book. And I began both tasks. Then, as I stopped attending creative writing classes and the critique group fell apart, so did my drive.

No argument, that was MY choice. I chose not to write more than a few hours a week, sometimes in an entire  month. I used many excuses, some fair, most convenient, to avoid facing the fear of “failure” again. But the need to “succeed” had not been the driving force for my writing in the first place.

I started writing simply for the joy of creating characters and story lines, and seeing those characters come alive. It was FUN. It was exciting to watch a character take over and become much more than I had originally planned.

In later years, the drive came from sharing that hard to define creative spark with other writers. To partake in the incredibly generous act of reading each others’ work aloud, no matter the genre, and of giving and accepting feedback. It is so revealing to hear your words come out of someone else’s mouth!

I recently began talking with a coworker about his goal to write a novel. As the conversations continued, there it was – that shared sense of fun and discovery. It’s just a whisper right now, true, but if I listen…

I have resumed writing and, on a whim, I started this journal to keep track of my voyage back to passion.