Shhh….listen. Let your characters speak.
If you write novels or screenplays, you probably know that the Story exists whole before you write a single word of it.
Non-writers often assume that writers “make up” stories. That we invent characters, put words in their mouths, decide who they are and what they’ll do. And, if you read many how-to-write-fiction or how-to-plot-screenplays, you’ll also begin to wonder: Is that how other writers do it? Planning, scheming, plotting it all out? So mechanical? Perhaps that works for some writers.
For me, that would be impossible.
The stories I write, choose me. The characters already exist, they know who they are. And they know the story. Because it’s their story. For whatever reason, they choose to trust me with it. It’s about relationship. Listening. Getting to know them. Asking questions and letting them tell you.
Yes, that sounds nutty to someone who hasn’t experienced it. But most writers know what I’m talking about.
Having a problem with your storyline? Ask your characters. Listen to what they have to say and to what they’re not telling you. And be patient.
The stories I write have to do with wounded people rediscovering their innate strength, value and beauty. Early on in the screenplay I’m working on now, I was antsy. I wanted to see ahead, to know what the major events were going to be. I wanted to be assured that the story unfolding would actually make sense.
What did the characters do? The lead character who had experienced the most pain in the story asked me to be tender with them.
Duh. Here I was writing a story about tenderness and I wasn’t being tender with the characters.
Needless to say, the character made his point.
Don’t try to force anything on your characters. Instead, listen to them. If they trust you, they’ll tell you.
Characters want to tell their story. They’ll work with you to find the best way.
And they have a wealth of expertise on just how to do that.
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