I participated in my first "live chat" the other night. It was like sneaking a peek at somebody's Gchat (although apparently 500 other people were doing it, so I guess I'm not that big a creep). The chat, run by This Is Teen and Figment, went down between two of my very favorite authors: Maggie Stiefvater and Lucy Christopher. It was supposed to be about voice, but their answers spanned a whole range of writerly topics that had me taking avid notes.
- You don't always have to know how the story ends, but you should know the end of the characters' emotional arc. In other words, what do they learn? Everything that happens to a character in the story leads to the realization they come to by the end.
- It's OK to steal people. (I liked this one...because I'm constantly stealing sayings and nervous gestures from people from strange and familiar). Keep writing fresh by watching how people react to things; their speech patterns and movements; their turns of phrase.
- Read out loud to see how a character's voice is shaping up; it's great for objectivity and for 'hearing' what isn't working for your characters.
- The most important thing is that your character be consistent and believable and true to themselves...
- I think it comes back to being true to the individual you're writing. You don't ask "would a teen say this?" you ask "would my character say this?"
- Ask yourself: who is it that your character projects? Who are they really on the inside? You need to know the 'why' when you're the author. WHY are your characters acting the way they do? Don't worry about the physical things like eye color and hair length...worry about motivation, what propels them.
- Reading out loud helps you to know if you're being yourself, or if you're being your character.
From Maggie: "...the key to true storytelling is to be specific". You can find a character's 'truth' when their reactions become predictable, and you know what it is that drives them
LC: "I write stories about places I want to explore / think about more / have issues with / have an interesting cultural resonance."
MS: "Absolutely. A setting is like a character where you have to ask yourself, why are things that way HERE. Not anywhere else, but HERE."
MS: "So if there is something peculiar and interesting about you, something cool you've done, that is what you should mine for your novels."
MG: "In my head, the story already exists, and my job is to dust carefully away until I find it beneath all the silt. And if I smash too hard and impose my will and bust past writer's block without thinking about what is really stopping me from writing, I'll smash off the statue's arm. So I need to go carefully and trust my gut, and when they are right, I can FEEL it. I see it right there. The story I always meant to write."
MS: "If you know how a character is going to react, you know what they're going to say."
It was a fantastic chat, and well worth sipping wine through. If you want to replay it in all its glory. go here!