Thinking about not writing…

One of the hardest things for me to settle in the creation of my stories is character motivation. For a long time, I didn't even know this. But the more I worked at the craft, I noticed a pattern began to emerge. It always popped up in the same form, too, something I call a "plot knot."

This thing was like a ball of yarn that got tangled up worse at the end. And over the years, I backed myself up into some terrible corners, having to find my way through one maze after another before coming up with solutions. My muses were not always helpful at this point (sorry, everybody), because they had a way of sending us all off on wild thought tangents that invariably ended up being nothing more than beguiling distractions that detracted from the figuring side of my mind,

"It's called brainstorming, my dear, and people have been doing it since the beginning of time."

Yes, thank you for that, Professor, but I don't have all of eternity to explore every possible scenario. Especially when faced with deadlines. Then one day it occurred to me. I cannot come up with with any decent motivations for anything, unless I know who it is that has to be motivated. Thoroughly. To have a living breathing villain, for instance who was so real a reader could fairly feel that wisp of breath down their own neck… Well, I couldn't just snap vices out of the air and glue them onto stick-figures with the usual details. No. I had to know something about them in a much more gripping way.

It isn't enough that my heroine is being stalked by a deranged person. No, I must know that this deranged person wants something that they cannot have, even if they catch her. Because it was the trust someone else put in her, that they felt should have belonged to them. (and, yes, I know the plural is improper, but I don't want to give away gender). I'm talking about a real plot knot for a real book. I am just thinking things out here, which is what this blog was originally begun for.

So, I not only need to know the why, I must know the exact incident that led up to it. I even need to know the other person involved, just as well, because I have to know why they denied my "now stalker" this trust in the first place. And I probably even need to know a few related incidents that led up to this particular rift between those two. All of which has nothing to do with my heroine, or her current situation. This is her journey, not the other's. What's more, the particular scenes in which she and this stalker interact will not really amount to that much in relation to the whole book. However…

When I am stuck as to the where, how, and why of the physical plot -- at any given point (but especially the end)-- I realize the answer lies in MY interpretation of those characters. How can I "know what they're up to" if I don't watch and calculate what's going on, in the same way I would have my eye on a naughty child? If I know them that well, then I will have an idea what they are up to. I might even catch them in the act of things because I already knew they were headed in that direction just by watching their former behavior. Because I know how they think.

But why is this stuff so important if I'm not going to write any of it down?

Because it now gives me a reservoir of ideas to draw from that are specifically tailored to my story. I'm no longer wandering all over the place, I'm narrowed down to only several different ways this thing could work out. And they are very clear to me. In fact, if I can manage to do a good enough job with the writing end, they should be just as clear to my reader at this point, too. But neither of us will talk about it. And I certainly won't write any of this information down in the actual story. Oh, but it will be there. A little pulse of a current between their brain and mine. And -- if I'm good enough -- we will end up knowing the same things without a single word being traded about the matter. Then should I be so lucky as to achieve a response of, "I knew it! I just didn't see it coming…"

Well, then all this time spent in thinking of what I am not writing… this stuff I never intended to write down in the first place… will all be worth it.

What's happening on the farm today... we are making arrangements to move the goat herd. Permanently. It is a sad situation for "the Sweetbriar" but much better for them, as they will be able to stay together and be in a lovely place with a kind and loving family. All this because we are planning some long trips over the next few months, and caretakers for a herd of goats are hard to come by. So, it couldn't be a better solution. That is, unless you were striving for perfect...


Anonymous said...

Hi there
Hope you are well. I am in your MG\YA group and I just thought I would stop by and say hello. It's taking me time to get around everybody as I am in two groups. Great blog btw.
Eve xx

D. Ann Graham said...

Thank you, Eve... I have been "out and about" and being rather slow about blog visiting, myself. But I am home, now, and ready to get back into it. And yours will be one of the first I stop by!