Paper people

Sometimes there is someone you know who you just cannot believe is that shallow. Does this person think about anything? Stop talking about nothing long enough to grow? Have any redeeming quality whatsoever? Now the biggie: is this your character?

Sometimes in the rush to get the words down on the page you might not have a clear idea of who this character is. Do you flesh out the details as you go or just move your paper person around in your world? This is where I run into problems, usually in my prewriting. Why do I prewrite? Because this is where I get to know my characters, my plot, the arcs, the details, all the juicy stuff that I think needs to be in the story. This creation part is where I get to have fun. I torture my characters. I make bad things happen. Then I’m mean and make them cope with it, react to it, or just plain try and run away. But I also have to flesh out that character more for both myself and the reader so that the character, (and incidentally their actions,) is believable. How frustrated have you become when you come across a character in a story that does something so completely out of character you put the book down? Come on, we’ve all done it. In this case the paper person may have been fully formed in the author’s mind, but it didn’t translate to the story. Or maybe, (the horror,) the author didn’t know the character and blithely wrote the scene without a blip.

Invest in your characters. Paper people are fine (sort of) for discovering things, generic secondary characters or just walk-ons. And when you run into them in real life make up a story about them or invent a reason for why he/she is that shallow. It’s a great writing exercise. Write on.


Growing or Dormant? you growing in the ground you’re planted in or have you fallen into a dormant phase? I refuse to believe that anyone is dead until they actually are. My biggest nightmare is being trapped within myself. Can you imagine it? Your brain works completely fine, but you have no muscle control or any way to interact with anyone or the world around you. Creepy. But that is a thought for another day.

All of us have an environment that is unique to us. The question is: what are you doing with yours? Even the most mundane environment can be full of inspiration, motivation or evasions. Suspense? A cat stalking a rabbit or squirrel. Romance? Dew on a rose in the morning light. Fantasy? There are gnomes/fairies/smurfs living in the yard. Mystery? Who is the dead guy in the basement? I don’t even want to think about the evasions, but a few spring to mind: can’t write until the dishes are done; the mountain of laundry is going to bury us in an avalanche; the mold has taken over the bathroom. You get the point.

All it takes is a bit of changing your point of view to get to a perspective where you can grow. Look at where you are. It may not be ideal, but then we always have dreams of where we’d like to be. Use what is around you to work for you. Use the dream of where you’d like to be. Anything can work for you, you’re an artist. Our environment is what it is. Don’t like it, change it. But if you’re in this place for a while, find the magic that works for you. We have a choice to see things through our own unique perspective. I can’t wait to read about yours. Grow where you’re planted. Write on, friends.

To a Younger Me

Image from by Indelible Ink

Image from by Indelible Ink

Have you ever thought about what you’d say if you wrote a letter now to your younger self? The temptation is to put all your current wisdom in hopes of changing the way things went. I don’t think I could write myself a letter like that and here’s why: I wouldn’t be who I am now if I changed things. Could it be better? Sure. Could it be worse? Sure.

The parts that bother me about writing to my younger self is that I really like who I am now. If I hadn’t made all those mistakes, or what I thought were mistakes at the time, I wouldn’t have learned the lessons I did. I wouldn’t have done some of the things I did (assuming I heeded my own advice.) Our experiences, both good and bad, help make us the people we are. Temptation to go back and only change the bad stuff is strong. Who wouldn’t want to save themselves pain? But pain is necessary to understand what is good and right in our lives. And who is to say that by changing something bad that something worse wouldn’t have happened?! This is what speculative fiction deals with. So write the story where something didn’t happen. Most popular is changing history: what if Hitler had never come to power or become an adult, for example. Change it to what you would have done differently. Write the story, and see where you end up. Are you a free-willer or a designed-planner? Would something else have happened that you could have prevented? Time travel may someday become a reality. What are the ethics and responsibilities of its use? Who gets to decide? This is where writing allows us to explore possibilities, opportunities, or just play and see what happens.

There are those who think that high school was the ultimate pinnacle of our lives. I, for one, am thankful that was not the case. I hated high school. For me it was a time to be lived through, endured, survived. The things that make us unique, what contributes to our voice in writing, are the experiences we have. We are all different. We all have something to add to the great pool of knowledge and life. What makes your voice unique? Write that. Be true to yourself. I couldn’t write that letter to me. The Brad Paisley song aside, I’d want to, but I couldn’t.

Would you write the letter? What would you write? All I know is that today is the day to write something. Write on.