Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Writing in a Crowded Room

No, this isn't about Nanowrimo, that mega-writing event taking over next month in some writing circles. I write every day so I don't need the incentive. It would be like performing the Heimlich maneuver on someone who isn't choking.

I've said I started late to writing and I've said my teachers in junior and senior high didn't see half my writing. That is all true. But I remembered something I did a very long time ago which should have told me something. The memory drifted back into my current consciousness after I asked someone if they would like to look at some character sketches. I may be a pantster in the plotting department but sometimes I think I overdo it a bit in the character department. Where did that come from? Where did that start? Very simple

When I was around 13 or 14, maybe younger, I started doing something when dragged by my parents to an event I didn't want to go to. Sometimes it was a public event; sometimes it was a family reunion where half of the people were unfamiliar to me.

I took a notebook and a pen with me. Looking around I would spot a face in the crowd that interested me. Where my older brother would start drawing a picture I would start describing their face, the way they wore their hair, what they wore, what caught my attention, how they moved. how they used their hands as they talked, their facial expressions. After getting down all I could see (but actually could not hear---I was never close enough to hear and too shy to approach), I would start my usual Pochemuchka-like behavior.
  • What did they do for a living?
  • What were they doing in that venue?
  • How did they fit or not fit?
  • Why were they happy or unhappy?
  • What was making them feel/act that way?
Shall I stop now? I could write more questions. It comes easily to me. And, yes, out of all those questions a little story would arise. I didn't write down the story I'm sad to say and all of those character sketches have been lost over the years. Probably stuffed into a box and tossed out as useless later. I'd probably have them in a zip file if it had all happened in the Internet Era.

I do think it molded my method. Character comes first--story comes out of the character. I don't think I can state without hesitation my stories are character-driven. I don't think they fit that definition. It's more a matter of creating a character complex enough, real enough for them to tell their story to me.

How long or how well I can execute that method I don't know. But I keep discovering characters and listening.

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