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Problematic

I’ll pose the question: How do I turn away from character development, and focus instead on plot advancement?

Here’s the thing. When I write- at least, when I write this particular story- I am attempting to tell the story of characters that my imagination birthed ten years ago. For me, once a character is created, it’s as though my mind forgets that they are my creation, and perceives them as a whole, complete being who’s story is just waiting to be told- by me. So I have known these characters- these people, really- for ten years.

I know them now so much better than I used to, for children always have a bit of a skewed perception of reality- and non-reality. Things are different when we are young; we think we know people, until we grow up and take a look at their souls and realize that we never really knew them to begin with, and are only just now seeing who they really are.

So on that note, I keenly feel the emotions of these people (characters). I have grown up with them. I have spent ten years with their thoughts and feelings and motives teeming in my brain. It’s a wonder my own thoughts fit. Sometimes my mind feels full to bursting with their longing- their story wants to be told but I am the only one with the voice to do it. But my voice falters me all too often, which is why that story is yet to be told.

(As I write this I am struck with the need to apologize to them.)

(I’m sorry, my beautiful souls. I know the pain in waiting, silently, knowing there is nothing you can do to move circumstances forward. I’m sorry that your voices are all obscured and mixed up, so I have trouble understanding what you’re asking of me- the story you’re trying to tell me. You are all so beautiful to me- my beautiful messes- and I love you. I’m sorry.)

That said, my problem is that I can’t get out of their heads, much like they shall never leave my mind. Turns out I can be incredibly focused, and all I can focus on is my people (characters), and what they’re thinking and feeling, and how they interact with each other, and how they carry themselves, and dress themselves, and what they like to listen to, and how they deal with trauma, and what makes them hurt, and- do you see my problem?

They matter so much to me. So much, in fact, that that’s all I can focus on when I write their story. I write them, and not the story. I have plot partially mapped out in my head- that is to say I know what happens in their story for the most part- I just don’t know how to focus on it enough to get it written down accurately and succinctly. It’s true, I want to write a character driven novel rather than plot driven, but I still need plot progression to tell a cohesive story. I like the plot of this story, make no mistake, I’m just more interested in how the plot affects my people (characters) than how the plot plays out.

The thing is, no one wants to read a book about people (characters) they don’t know intimately, and they can only know them intimately when they comprehend and understand the circumstances those people (characters) go through; when they witness the events first hand.

So ultimately, what I’m asking for is advice. What suggestions do you have for how to focus more on plot, and just get the meat of the story written, without dedicating obscene amounts of time to character development (which can obviously be filled in later)?

(Links to advice is appreciated also, but I am longing to hear original, spur-of-the-moment thoughts and opinions and suggestions.)

disingenuous 

trust me, not 

as one would trust themselves 

to respond badly, or to lose control 

just trust me 

as something that is always 

trust me as a constant 

or for the sake of trusting 

inherent need driving you to 

grasp onto something, anything 

because trust is safe 

trust lets you let go 

stop worrying 

lose focus

trust is basic, childish 

trust no one 

at least not wholly 

because anyone can be disingenuous 

whether they’re trying to

or not 

Feet Seeking Mind

DSC_0441_DxO

She’s electrified by
peculiar weather

Feet rooted like grass
not reaching deep so much
as spreading out

Seeking to feel this
heaving surface she is
one with

Mind thrown wide open
blank and clean and searching;
a sky in her own right

I think sometimes it’s important for us to write stories that are painful for us to write. 

Stories that feel like they’re wrenching themselves from our very souls. 

Stories that hurt a little too much because they’re real; they’re what we’re actually feeling deep inside. 

I think it’s important because there is going to be someone who reads that, and thinks I hurt like that. They’re writing about me, how did they know. 

And there is something so important about that connection that we, as the reader, make with the writer. 

I recently read a book by Donald Miller- possibly my favorite writer of all time- and in this book he wrote about how it felt to be so heartbroken that it feels like your chest is ripping open and you’re bleeding out. He wrote about the visceral, physical pain of heartache. 

I cried when I read that; I sat in the living room in the dark and sobbed. 

I cried for Don, because it broke my heart to read about his pain, and I cried because I know what that pain is like. 

I cried because I know what it’s like to hurt like this. You’re writing about me, Don, how did you know. 

And in a way I felt stronger after that. 

Twine wrapped antlers lined the ceiling. Some were old, at least as old as Granddad could remember. It was cool in the basement, dim and smelling of earth and potatoes. I found myself there often, eyes tracing the curves of each tine, letting the hum of the woodstove fan and the creaking of the settling house overtake the storm of thoughts. It was somehow easier that way, to stand under the earth, away from the cold air that tried to push snow under the door, and the grey skies. I was twenty-one and had lost everything.

The little house was on a hill, looking down at the wind-ravaged sea, and I knew I had heard a song about it at one time. Music was an anchor to me in those days, and I would let the melancholy strains of folk and bluegrass sink into the weathered boards of my attic room while the muslin curtains were gradually soaked through and crusted with the salt breezes. It was February in New England and the sun couldn’t find its way through the pale clouds. I was twenty-one and had a hole in my heart and silver rings on my fingers.DSC_0272

Rings that were tight in the mornings and loose in the evenings and became tangled in my waves of pale auburn hair when I twisted it into a knot at the crown of my head. The red came from Granddad. There were still traces of it in his carefully groomed beard, trailing out from sea-weathered skin to mingle with the silver-white.

He had mom’s eyes, that crystal clear between blue and green, and on days when I couldn’t meet his gaze he would open all the windows, and let the fire blaze, and bring in kittens from the woodshed. They were wild, windswept little greylings, but they would sink tiny claws into his woolen trousers to scale him like a tree, and they would settle, curled against his chest, cupped gently in salty, hook-scarred hands.

He would smile, fine lines reaching from the corners of his eyes to the ginger-grey temples, and more often than not I found I could look at him again. I was twenty-one, and had a house full of the elements and a gentle old man and his kittens.

It was a Friday that changed things. I didn’t know it was the fourteenth, and if I did I wouldn’t have cared that it was Valentine’s Day. To me it was just another of those days. The ones that were harder than most. My hands shook when I tried to do careful things, and despite the drafts of wind that drove sheets of rain across the sky I couldn’t stop opening the windows. Granddad kept the stove well stoked, his Wellies a familiar creak on the stairs while I washed dishes and let salt cake on my hair and dry lips from the rain and wind coming in through the open windows.

On days like this we would pry open a jar of home-canned clams and make chowder and corn pone. Lay out the linen napkins, stoneware bowls and pewter spoons as nice as though they were fine china and silver. We wouldn’t know what to do with china and silver anyways, Granddad always reminded me, and I always agreed, relishing the rough edges of the stone under my fingertips.

A storm rolled in, darkening the late afternoon prematurely, but the windows stayed open. At some point I had managed to explain, my words strangling me, that they suffocated me sometimes when they were closed. So open they stayed, and we never needed to talk about it again. I was twenty-one, and felt anxiety from closed windows, yet drew solace from the lashing storms.

Granddad was on his little wooden stool in the corner of the kitchen, peeling potatoes with a paring knife. I set the cast-iron pan of pone on the back of the stove to keep warm, and then faced the storm darkened window over the sink to begin dicing the peeled potatoes. Granddad brushed the back of my neck softly with his knuckles when he leaned past me to set some potatoes in the sink, and that’s when my hands started to tremble almost violently.
DSC_0267    He didn’t notice, went back to his quiet stool and the kittens that twined round his wool-wrapped ankles, and I squeezed the blur from my eyes and tried to make the knife in my hands stop shaking. The next thing I knew there was a red-streaked potato in the sink and I was staring down at a slick, crimson smear of opened flesh on my palm. It was a testament to my numbness that I didn’t respond to the instinctual urge to stem the flow of blood and apply pressure to the wound.

I turned then, my breath starting to hitch in my chest as I held my shaking hands out in front of me. Blood slid in sluggish rivulets down my wrist and my other hand fumbled to press on the weeping line, sending a red-stained ring tumbling to the floor with a muffled clink. I watched it roll across the boards, before it finally settled tremulously, leaving droplets of blood in its wake.

A kitten slipped from Granddad’s lap to pounce on the tainted silver, only to shake its paw in annoyance at the viscous liquid that clung to its silken fur, and it was that sudden movement that caught his attention. His gaze rose to me immediately and he tensed on his stool, though he made no move toward me, instead letting a potato roll from his fingers back into the basket. His brow wrinkled with worry, but he just looked at me, and I knew he was waiting for me to ask.

To ask for help, something that had stuck in my throat for months, strangling me with the prospect of frightening vulnerability. I looked at the person who had been just waiting, with open hands, to catch me when I fell, and felt my eyes fill. I cut myself, I whispered, and those hands were suddenly close, cupping my face briefly, catching my elbow gently to turn me back to the sink.

A clean towel found its way into my hand, careful pressure causing a shock of not unpleasant pain to shoot up into my arm, and I let my fingers instinctively curl to grip the worn fabric tight. The tremble had bled from my hands all up through my arms and into my chest, and I could feel myself shaking. I was twenty-one and a cut on my hand was breaking me more thoroughly than the touch of loss.

Granddad was talking, and only when I looked up at him did his words register with me. –not bad. He was saying. It’s not so bad. You’ll be alright. It’s not bad.

Only it was, and I couldn’t escape the fact. My heart had in it a sharper ache than the sting on my hand, and it was only now spilling out, after months of my not knowing what to do with it. Letting it out had never seemed an option until now, and that realization struck a bitter chord within me, forcing a tiny broken sound from my lips.

My grandfather wrapped his arms around me then, trapping my bloody hand firmly against his chest, and I finally let myself give in. The wind lashed no less fiercely at the open window, the elements still inexplicably determined to remove us with no trace that we were ever here. I was vaguely aware of kitten paws on my feet and a tiny, warm body pressed to my ankle, odd details standing out vividly as I gave in and released the pain of loss.

I was twenty-one and was learning to let go.

Twice I have aspired to participate in this phenomenon which is called NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. That is, the month of November. If you haven’t heard of it, the idea is to set a word goal for yourself, and using the provided website and other participants for encouragement, pound out a novel in one month. Suffice it to say I failed miserably both times, barely reaching several thousand words.

It was discouraging, making me feel as though I must not /really/ want to be a writer, if I can’t make myself just sit down and write. Both times I became frustrated with myself, and probably ended up hardly writing for weeks afterward, due to being burnt out on trying to make it work; trying to force myself to write something that I hadn’t even worked out a plot for. Ultimately, it felt like I had failed before I even began.

I refuse to do that again.

It is a wonderful idea, and it works for very many people, but not for me. Just because something is a good thing, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing for you personally. While self-enlightenment does tend to be a bit of an overstated thing these days, it is important to recognize things about yourself and how you work- physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually- as to live in a way that is wholesome, healthy, and beneficial to you and those that you care about.

That said, this November I will not burden myself with the goal to create. Creating, for me, shouldn’t be a goal or a deadline, it should be a pouring of soul into words and images.

So. This November, what I’m going to do instead is complete the 30-day Minimalist Challenge. Day one, you get rid of one thing. Day two- two things. And so on and so forth. I have always been way too materialistic, and it’s starting to clutter up my life, my living space, my mind, everything. I have too many things that fall under the category of “I’ll make something with it someday” or “It might be useful to have around someday”.

It will more than likely be a bit of a challenge, I fully acknowledge that, especially because lately I’ve been working hard to adopt more of a minimalistic lifestyle and therefore have already been getting rid of things left and right. I still have too much stuff though, so this November I’m letting it go.

I’m letting physical belongings go, and I’m going to try and let circumstances that are beyond my control go as well. I’m going to try and let crippling doubts and worries go. I’m going to let go of a performance based lifestyle and instead do the things that need done and that I love to do simply because that’s what I want to do, and that is what’s best for me. I am going to let go of my fear of being vulnerable. I am going to let go of the notion that circumstances are anything but what they are simply because I am met with disapproval or disdain.

So there. I’m letting go of the things that honestly matter much less than we generally think they do, and I’m letting go of unfair obligations I place upon myself to try and be someone. I am someone. Maybe I’m someone who forgets to brush my teeth, and binge-watches Netflix, and says things I shouldn’t to people who may or may not deserve it, but I am someone.

I don’t need to “better myself'”, I just need to do things that are better. Like letting crap go.

I will be cataloging the things I get rid of, and will probably post updates here on how things are going, how it’s affecting me mentally, etc.

Peace- A

eucharisteo

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No. 1 Reason Why I Got A Tattoo
I like how they look, plain and simple.
I think they’re a beautiful, artistic way to express yourself, and in many ways they’re a lovely form of expression on the part of the tattoo artist. It takes a lot of talent, patience, practice, confidence, and I admire them for that. I think that tattoos (if they are tasteful, and not obscene or disturbing) should really begin to lose the “evil” reputation that they seem to have. Having a tattoo in no way, shape, or form has any effect on who you are inside. It is simply an outside decoration of our earthly bodies.

No. 1 Reason Why I Got THIS Tattoo
Eucharisteo. It’s a fairly revolutionary way of thinking about life. What it means is this:
“A Greek word meaning thanksgiving, to be thankful.
Envelopes the Greek root word charis meaning grace, and the derivative chara which is Greek for joy.
He took the bread, and knew it to be a gift and gave thanks. We too participate in eucharisteo in communion and in life if we so choose.”

Courtesy of the Urban Dictionary. Yes, it has its uses.
So basically, the idea of eucharisteo is that when we live with Grace, that enables us to be Thankful, even through the trials in life, and from the thankfulness comes Joy.

It’s a beautiful idea, and one that has completely changed the way I look at life and live from day to day.

So that’s why I got a tattoo that says eucharisteo. Every single time I see that, I will remember. Every time. Every day.

The nest and flowers? Well, the nest because that’s what is on the cover of the book that taught me about eucharisteo. Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. And the flowers because I thought they were pretty.
And that’s pretty much it.

Disclaimers: I will not regret my tattoo ever. I do not care what it makes people think of me. I do not care what it will look like when I’m old.

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