“Writing as a way of life, writing in a way that will save your life, has a very interesting dynamic to it. To be successful as a writer, you have to cultivate two oppositional sides of your personality: the secret-keeper you, and the public chatty bold you. They’re both in there, and they both deserve the honor of practice.”
Someone sent me this quote. If anyone knows where this came from, please let me know so I can give that person credit. I love it. Writing is indeed about writing about secrets, whether the ones you yourself keep or the ones your characters keep. I want my characters to keep their secrets to the very end, then surprise everyone. But they never do, they tell. They can’t hold anything in.
After writing about building characters the other day someone sent me a five-page character development worksheet template. I was a little overwhelmed. After all, most of the time my characters develop themselves on the pages, then grow and tell me who they are page after page. How can I tell all their secrets up front? But the sender is right. I need to know everything about my characters before I can send them on their missions, save them from peril, or allow them to fall in love. I’m going to try using this template, where I must list a character’s fears, longings, psychological problems, prescriptions they’re taking, past surgeries and their abnormal perceptions, among a long list of other attributes.
This character development thing is a discipline. I abhor that word. I run away from discipline. Which brings me back to the above quote. Hollywood has made dozens of movies involving emotional and physical abuse in the name of a husband “disciplining” his wife (most of the time). “The Burning Bed” was one of them. A terrifying movie. I try not to watch these type movies because these bring back too many memories of my ex-husband, who has no idea he was or is abusive. In his words, he was trying to “break” me of my nature. Now my nature is and always has been an introverted, intuitive, feeling and perceiving soul. He wanted me to be more like his mother, who was dedicated to her husband and cooking and keeping the house clean. To this day, and I think she is in her 80s, I don’t believe she has any interests outside her day to day home existence, and she lives in a one-dimensional world that she seems to have always loved. There’s nothing wrong with that.
We are not at all alike. I love to write and paint and go and do and teach and preach and create and learn and I’m like a new puppy wanting to get my nose in everything. And I like to contemplate. Most times while I’m alone. Sometimes this precludes dusting the mantle, darning socks, or making certain the magazines are fanned out on the coffee table just like the one-dimensional photos in those magazines.