Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Secret Life of Characters

Goals today:
Writing: 500 words on Book 2.
Work: Keep editing "the Sapphire Report"
Home: Play something fun with Child tonight. Maybe a puppet show, with the penguin stick puppets she just made at school.

Diana Peterfreund was talking about character revelations today--those moments when a character lets something slip as you're writing, and suddenly (AHA!) you understand them better.

It happens to me all the time. As I was writing TMT Katherine kept getting squirrelly about water. It was prominent in one scene that got cut, but it's still there, throughout. She avoided ponds and rivers (especially rivers), but I didn't know why--she just wouldn't go there. Then I was writing a scene about a third of the way through, and she suddenly tells a story to her friend, as a way to pass the time, and as an indication of how close they're getting. Turns out her mother drowned when she was 3, in the River Wear, and Katherine was the only witness.

Wow. Cool, huh? Tragic of course, but amazing. I didn't know that about her, but still saw the effects of it on her character, so that it made perfect sense when it was revealed. And little revelations like that happened throughout the writing of the book.

(Edited to say I put that bit up as the new excerpt. You can click on the link to the right, or here.)

I'm experiencing it now, again, with Book 2, and this time with both of my main characters. I haven't had a major revelation yet, but Isabella's showing me all the time that she's not a flat character from a chronicle, nor exactly what I would expect. (She's flirting--flirting!--at the age of 11! I tried to tell her to cut it out, but she is so not listening to me.) And Constanza, who history books peg as religious and dull, is snarky and bitter when she's with her sisters, and oh so full of pride. Just yesterday she called the English "northern fools" and disparaged them for talking during Mass. Who said they talk during Mass? I didn't! And why is she compliant and quiet when she's with the English (which of course is the part that's chronicled), but resentful in private? I can't wait to find out.

This writing stuff is fascinating, isn't it?

Medieval Word of the Day: glent: To move quickly or with a gliding motion, esp. in an oblique direction.

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