Something to Hang Your Hat On... Part 2

Yesterday, I talked about a lot of things, but mostly I talked about incorporating sense of community and familiarity in your writing in order to draw the reader closer. Today, I'm thinking along the lines of emotions, experiences and revelations. What has this got to do with it? Lots. Emotions draw the reader into caring for the characters, gives them a tie to this on-paper-person that you've done your best to turn flesh-and-blood. So many times, I get caught up in the getting the movements and plot points onto the page, but really this only ever results in a flat story. It needs emotional ties in order to make the readers care what happens. These emotions, experiences and revelations (or epiphany, another good word) are the things in our life that affect us the most. They change the direction of our lives, whether we want them to or not. They are the roadblocks that force us to make a decision, good or bad, easy or hard, right or wrong.
Most would say... "but emotion is just emotion." But emotions really demand a reaction.
  • Example: Heroine searches for the mother that gave her up for adoption, only to find that her mother passed away before she could find her. What is her reaction? Panic? Anger? Loss?
If you've given the reader an emotional base for the character then you need to follow suit when it comes to handling difficult, life changing decisions. These are the experiences. How they handle the emotion is a part of the story and gives the character an experience to learn and lead on from.

which leads us to revelations...

Revelations are the lessons learned from the emotions and the experiences. They are the warm and fuzzy, or deep and thoughtful moments that move the inner conflict of the story forward and give some measure of satisfaction to the reader.

Okay, so emotions are the catalyst, experiences are the gauge for the reaction and revelations are the outcome of the experience. It's what happens when you find your way through the maze of emotion.

Something to Hang Your Hat On...

I looked for the origination of the phrase, but instead I found the wonderful definition that it means to have faith in something. As simple as the phrase is, it says so much about grounding yourself and your writing. It gives the readers something to have faith, to believe in, to know in their hearts as a truth. Sometimes that realization and grounding comes through the characters actions and growth, some of it is as integral as the setting and the words on the page. This is part of that hard-to-define voice that writers struggle so much to achieve.

I was watching Anthony Bourdain's show on the city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. I was there, along with quite a few romance writers, not long before Katrina. I was also one of the millions who watched in horror as the city was swept aside in a tide of choas and the elements of nature. I've often said that New Orleans was a city that made me feel at home. It has a slow, seductive enchantment that draws you in the minute you get off the plane. I wasn't there for Mardi Gras. I'm not one for crowds and there are always crowds in New Orleans. But the people made me love the city with their easy kind of grace that seems to meld into their bones and eeked out of a city that's reverance for the past is as honored as their glory in the future. I didn't meet anyone there that made me feel as if I were just visiting. They were welcoming, kind, creative, bold and generous. Someday, I'm going to take my husband there so he can meet the city for himself.

But what has this got to do with hats or writing? So much. As I watched the people presevere and return to take on what was left of their city, fighting to restore the traditions, food and character, I knew that there is comfort in familiarity. By creating community that is recognizable, full-bodied and emotional, you create a community for your characters, a belief system, a tie that keeps them rooted to the story. As writers, it's sometimes our job to take a highly recognizable place and changes it slightly, without doesn't lose the connection with what people believe, or see in their minds, or even can feel with their heart. The community becomes a character, become flesh and blood and history and future. A grounding force. And a community becomes something to hang their hats on.

Hot and Heavy for another BIAW

I don't know where the time went, but it's once again time for BIAW (or Book in a Week) Challenge. I'm not sure why I thought that doing this 2 weeks before my daughter leaves for college was a good idea. But I knew that if I could persevere and get at least a few pages down I'd be all the better for it.

For those of you that aren't familiar with it you can read my last post. (Since I evidently haven't posted since last month. Shame on me.) But to put it in a nutshell... every month at http://book-in-a-week.com/ they host a writing challenge. For a nominal, one-time fee you sign up and post a challenge goal for the amount of pages you expect to accomplish from Monday through Sunday. Then, everyday you check in and post your totals for the day. It's all about accountability and competitiveness, even if it's only competitive with yourself. There is also the sense of support in that you see others taking on the challenge and struggling to meet your goals. It's worth it. Some writing chapters offer their own version of this kind of challenge. My own chapter has an ongoing program. But I found that I kind of like the chance to branch out and meet others that are struggling as well.

So, anyone out there up to the challenge? BIAW will be having another one next month and I can guarantee that I'll have just as many roadblocks in the way then. But I do know that I finally found a way to stay challenged when the only competition is myself!

Happy Writing everyone!

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