creative writing

Channeling a Character

I will sometimes finish a scene, sit back, and wonder who wrote that. The characters appeared to write themselves. They did and said what they wanted, despite what I had in mind.

I heard writers admit how their characters seemed to take over a scene, as if they came to life. I agree with writers that channeling could be the reason.

People think of channeling as psychics or people sensitive to the spiritual world. As background, a writer is limited in their writing by education, culture, environment, personality, and other traits linked to their life and mindset. When a character goes against these traits, I think the writer can be tapping into the spiritual world.

Whether or not the writer believes it, there are times when the writer becomes so focused on a scene that a connection is born and someone from the other side expresses themselves onto the page. Much like automatic writing. No, the writer is not seeing dead people like in The Sixth Sense. I think of it like this:

Channeling is possible when a writer focuses so much on a scene and characters that the writer enters a meditative state. I focus on writing a scene to the point I feel I am a part of it. Like in automatic writing, someone else comes through.

I know, you can’t wait for the catch or the joke to this blog. There isn’t any. I don’t think channeling is common, nor does it happen to everyone. Or, if it happens it comes briefly without the writer realizing it. But it exists.

Of course, many people would think this is nonsense. Yet, some stories could use a little collaboration. What better collaboration than people who do not ask for a byline?

Try this when you get stuck on a scene:

    • Get comfortable
    • Breath
    • Concentrate on the page without worrying you need to type something.

If you fall asleep, at least you’ll have a good nap. If you say awake, you may be happy about what had been written.

Does There Need to be a Hero and a Villain?

Many authors and people in the publishing industry claim that a story is not a story without a hero and a villain. I disagree.

The thinking behind this claim is that opposing sides create conflict which keeps the reader’s interest. Suspense builds toward the resolution of the conflict. Historically, opposing sides have been between good and evil or a hero and a villain. However, I don’t think a hero or a villain is always necessary to make a story. Nor, is good and evil needed.

To make a story, something needs to happen. At least one character should exhibit some type of change that does not come from facing an enemy. A scene, environment, or events can create challenges that make a character become a better or worse person. Yet, writing this way can be difficult for writers.

Many writers find it easier and simpler to create a hero and a villain where the boundaries are well defined and the conflict is clear. Such as in the Hero’s Journey. Except, this can lead to flat characters who have no complexity, deep emotion, or distinct personality.

Flat characters are clichés who stay within the boundaries of what the writer defines as good or evil. The story becomes more about chasing after something like an object or a goal than about who is doing the chasing. To avoid flat characters and give more dimension to the story, a writer could question the good and evil of the characters.

As an example, chase scenes and quests could change the hero into a villain and vice versa. Or, there could be no obvious hero or villain. Just average people confronted with challenges that makes them into something different than what they were at the story’s beginning.

What is More Important: Character or Plot?

A few months ago on the website for Alliance of Independent Authors, I read Rachel McCollin’s article Plot vs Character: Which Comes First?

She stated that a story needs both plot and character to succeed. I agree that stories need these equally. I’ve read many authors who focused on plot or character, but not both. To me, their stories seemed to lack a connection. They were easy to read and easy to forget.

A plot where the characters have no influence in the story becomes a series of chase and fight scenes until no one is left to fight or chase. Likewise, characters without a plot wander around facing continuous attacks on their emotions without resolution.

There are plenty of readers who want to read about action or feelings, but not both. However, the most memorable stories I’ve read had a story where plot and character worked closely together.

Ms. McCollin explained that many writers do not start off with a plot or characters. They start with a theme. Next comes the characters to stretch out the theme that develops into a plot. This is one path a writer can take.

Sometimes a writer may start off with characters with the plot arriving to give them purpose. If a plot develops first, the action brings the characters to life. In either case, a writer usually arrives at a point, a triple fork in the road, where they can focus on plot, character, or both.

It is here that a writer should decide who their readers will be. A story that focuses on plot or character can find readers. However, when plot and character are treated equally in a story the result can become a strong, memorable one that will find even more readers.

How to Get Rid of Darlings

In 1914, Arthur Quiller-Couch was the first person to write, “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — whole-heartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

It is hard for writers to get rid of something they wrote and love. It’s hard for me. The words stand out as if singing, “Don’t cut me! I can be loved.” To erase them is a death sentence to something beautifully written.

Many writers cannot pull out the eraser or hit the delete key. They end up with prose that is hard to read and understand. I know because I used to find it hard to do the cutting and my writing suffered.

Nowadays when editing and I hesitate on a word or series of words, I know there is something wrong. But, I like those words, I tell myself. Yet, when I focus on what they mean to the story I find that the words cause the reader, like myself, to stop and ask, “What is this?” The words throw the reader off and break the momentum or tempo of the story.

I learned to get rid of my pet words by saving them in a separate file for “future use.” Even though I have rarely used them in a future story, it makes me feel better when I take them out of a story for safekeeping. My cute, favorite words still exist somewhere.

Overtime, I do this saving less and less. I now delete the cute words I know do not belong and move on with the story. Although, from time to time I still find myself saving some favorite words in a file. It is always possible I could use them in some future story.