Saturday, July 16, 2016

Take Your Character on Vacation (July Theme by Naomi Kinsman)

For most of us, summer offers the opportunity to live a little differently. Whether for a week or a month, vacations invite us to try things we wouldn't normally try. We can learn a lot about ourselves--noticing the way we engage with new experiences.

This summer, my family took a trip to Bend, OR. During our week away, we boated, hiked, and even visited a mountain climbing gym. The mountain climbing was particularly interesting because it was a new activity for most of our family. We each handled it a little differently. Our approaches to the challenges posed by the climbing walls revealed a lot about our temperaments and personalities. How persistent were we? What goals did we set or not set for ourselves? Did we step back and watch or dive in first? When fear cropped up, did we push past it, pause, or panic?

This summer, I'm revising a novel I drafted during a recent NaNoWriMo. While the fast drafting gave me strong insight regarding plot, my characters still need development. Rather than forcing a revision, I've been writing around the edges of the book, giving my characters room to develop. One strategy I've tried is to write about my characters' ordinary lives, writing scenes that place them in regular situations. This approach has definitely helped me see how they behave from day to day.

However, while thinking about my experiences on vacation, I realized that putting my characters in extraordinary situations might provide key insight. Stories, after all, aren't about ordinary experiences. As writers, we need to know how our characters normally face challenges. Then, when the story pushes our character beyond the ordinary, we have a baseline and can show the character's growth from that point.

Maybe you're writing a story this summer, too. If so, I'd highly recommend you experiment with taking your characters on vacation. How will they react to the adventures offered?