Thursday, April 29, 2010



MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME...but is it really lost?

I had one of those days yesterday that I'm sure you've all had. My writing was a desert wasteland of nothingness. It wasn't because of the usual reasons, though. 

Not lack of passion. No.

Not lack of desire. Un-huh.

Not even writer's block. Nope.

Life. That's what happened.

I'd love to share with you what happened to one of my children at their school, but that's for another time, another issue, and when I'm ready. What I'd like to address, though, is how we take those unexpected *UGHS* in our lives and use them to propel us to greater things, deeper scenes, and unforgettable characters. 

"Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact." William James

Can we take wisdom from such a quote? 


I am a firm believer that whatever comes into our lives has a good purpose. We need to open our eyes and see. I don't believe there's some dude up above with a book pre-destined with our names in it. But I do believe that events that pass in and through our lives have meaning if we look hard enough and it's up to us; we have a choice. 

Let's take character development. 

When you begin a story, you always start with a someone. You have to or else you'd have one boring story about a rainstorm that would have to last the length of catastrophic, global flood. So would make a story about a flood interesting? Characters. 

The old man dangling from a tree.

Or maybe the dog still chained to his dog house that barks endlessly at the rising waters until he's silence to be heard from no more.

We may see the young family climbing onto the roof of their porch to later use an upstairs window and drag themselves on the roof of their house. They wait anxiously for help.

Point being, just like in *real* life our characters take from their surroundings, deepening who they are. How would the young father of the family on the roof of the house handle the situation? What would that tell the reader about him? His wife?

"Every man dies. Not every man really lives." William Wallace

Let's always make sure that the events that mold our scenes, plots, and stories enable our characters to *really live*. 

Have you ever had something happen to you personally that propelled you to greater things? Greater writing? 

And when you have a character profoundly affected by an event, how do you help that character truly live? 


  1. Tough questions, Sheri!

    Bad things happen to characters in books! I hope to continue living a life free of the kinds of horrible events that befall some of my characters! So, no -- I haven't had a real life experience that helped me put something similar down on paper.

    But I HAVE had advice on the craft of writing that has overturned my thinking and hopefully led me to greater things on the page.

    Just this week I had a critique from a very professional source which suggested a major, major change to my WIP. I am working very hard to accept what this means (although I tossed and turned all last night). Conversations in #YALitchat make it clear that an author should think twice (or thrice, or more) about rejecting this kind of advice.

    My gut reaction is -- NO! But I see this person's point, and I know that I should at least try it and see what happens.

    This could be a crucial learning point for me. I hope I'm smart enough to grow from it.

  2. Wow, Dianne. Powerful words. As you already know, I've so been there. I haven't had advice from a *professional* source, yet, but have from lots of very gifted writers--you included. I know we've discussed *listening to your gut* and *drowning out the voices that really don't apply to you in a certain case. Maybe there is a happy medium here.

    Just a thought, but try stepping back for a few days looking at this person's advice through clearer eyes. I know it's hard; your WIP is your current baby and who tells us to change the color of our baby's eyes or hair? Take a breather. The wisdom in this person's words will come to you. I know it will.

  3. Your questions make my brain hurt this early:)
    Yes, I've had things happen that propel my writing. And with my character, who goes through a lot, I throw in some good pieces of life, to help her "live." She appreciates the small things. Much like we all should, I guess.

  4. Hey Sheri,
    Yeah, life happens sometimes, and writing can really take a hit. But maybe those are the times to let things "steep" and when life settles, we have answers to niggling questions that have lingered in the back of our heads.

  5. Good question Sheri! Yeah, I've had things happen in my life that have made me move on to better things. I think most of my characters do too. If not, my book would be super boring. =)

  6. "Not every man really lives." I LOVE THAT!

    I have a huge bank of raw material (called life) that I draw on for my stories. I tried writing fiction once when I was in my early twenties. It didn't work. I hadn't lived enough life yet.

    I feel profoundly through my characters, which often makes it difficult to write wrenching scenes for them. I think many writers struggle with this: how do I make a fantastically interesting story, without dying in the process, because I'm living it?

    When a reader tells me they've gotten so immersed in a story that they feel like they are the character, I think, "I know exactly what you mean. I wrote it!"

  7. Yes, I have definitely had things happen that propelled me on and they weren't always what I'd call good ones. I think it's important to our character's growth that they have major events happen to them too or it'd be boring.
    I have great faith in life that things, including getting published, happen when they are supposed to. And if they aren't at the moment, in retrospect I can usually see why it wasn't meant to be or wasn't the best time given everything else going on.

  8. Wow, this is an incredibly insightful post. Living life is so important. Sometimes I just have to back away from the computer and remember that the people I can touch are more important than the people I'm chatting with online.

    I do think we can apply living our lives to our characters. After all, that's what we want to create. A character that is so three-dimensional that they feel real.

  9. Great point, Natalie. I fully agree.

  10. Very insightful Sheri, and true. Lot of bad things happen in life, lord knows I've had my share, but it's such a wonderful thing - to be alive - that I think you have to find a way to be thankful for every experience you've lived through.

    An example: My mom died when I was pretty young - 11 years old. It was really tough and I miss her everyday but if that had not happened I would not have ever met my girlfriend and fathered the two wonderful daughters who make every day a joy. It's bittersweet I know, but that's how your post hit home for me.

    When it comes to writing it can be a little more complicated because applying that same kind of acceptance to your characters can be tricky (at least it has been for me). What is sympathetic and believable in life can come across as contrived in writing. It is important to keep in mind though, and beautiful when it works.

    Thanks for sharing Sheri!

  11. The William Wallace quote is superb Sheri!

    I'm the kind of person that seems to be a magnet for all kinds of HAPPENINGS. I could give you a list of things that have happened in my life that you probably wouldn't I try to be careful when I write. Even if I described things that HAVE happened, in a book they would seem fake and contrived. That's why I rely on joking and kidding so much in real life I think. It's a kind of cloak to the sadness I often experience.


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