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Posts tagged ‘novels’

GIVING OUR CHARACTERS SUBSTANCE & DIMENSION

“Honest writing cannot be separated from the person who wrote it.”
Carl Jung

We writers create the best characters when we know ourselves—the depth of ourselves—and tap into that depth when we write, using all our senses.

Writers often have trouble creating believable, unusual characters.

o Instead, we make them cookie-cutter, stereotypical people–and bore our readers.

o Even though we might conduct extensive research, we resist the elements that end in helping us
develop multi-faceted exciting characters.

o Research by itself won’t fix the problem. Why?

o Because the most important element for creating characters with emotional and psychological
depth—wishes, feelings, passion, depth and vision—resides within me, the writer.

o For me to write meaningfully, I must connect my inner world with the outer world of my
creation.

It takes more than just structure to make our writing and our characters come to life.

o Before our characters can stand out from all others we must tap into our inner self, while we
create that character.

o We must be present inside our characters, and in our writing, or our story will not be
successful, for it will lack depth.

o Our readers must hear our voice as the narrator—not some detached fact teller.

o We must create different characters that express all the various voices we have within
ourselves.

o WE, the writer, make the difference between a lackluster character portrayed over and over, and
a character with a fresh, unique voice.

HOW DO WE DO THIS?

o We must make ourselves vulnerable.

o If we are not willing to do this, we cheat our character out of a real-life personality.

o We must take risks.

o We must explore our inner selves.

o We must delve into the parts of ourselves that are the most vulnerable—our own life
experiences, particularly those painful or delightful parts of our childhood.

o When we approach that most vulnerable part of ourselves we must not stop—we must not blink.

o Instead, we write right through that part of our history, thereby giving life to our
characters.

o The search into self can’t be accomplished by our ego.

o We need to confront feelings and desires long hidden from our conscious thoughts.

o When we try to create a character without doing so—our characters become cookie cutter.

o For instance, many people feel a lack of spontaneity in their lives, so we look around at
others, jealous perhaps, or even feel ashamed at our own repressions.

o So, then, when we write, we try to capture that trait in our characters, but rather than being
able to release our characters to spontaneity, we end up creating characters that only imitate
what we are trying to create—much like we do.

When we learn to be honest with ourselves—warts and moles and all, we:

Unlock our own sensory recall and transform our experiences, feelings, high, lows, pain, and joys, into unique, powerful, believable, original characters who are capable of touching the hearts of our readers.

Easy to say—not always easy to do.

Feminist? Unabashedly!

Unabashedly A Feminist

Among the reasons I write strong women today is because of the inspiration I’ve gained from others who have done such. Over the last forty years, I’ve filled my library, and my mind, with writings by women who offered what I needed. These women have inspired me to find my voice, to identify and claim who I am, what I stand for, and what I refuse to stand for. Their writing also helped me change those things that I didn’t like about myself. I find it amazing how women touch our lives so many years after they have passed from this world—women who lived and died, often years before we were born. Yet still they teach us much about ourselves.

One such example is the life and writings of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, born in 1860.

I first met her in a Women in Literature class at the University of Texas at El Paso in the early  1980s. I was forty-three years old and a sophomore. (Non-traditional students rock! It is never too late for a woman to go to college.)

My professor chose Charlotte’s feminist utopian novel, Herland, first published in 1915, for our class to read and discuss. (That cherished book is still an important part of my library, thirty years later.) I must admit, I was inspired—mesmerized—blown away—that a woman could pen such a novel at that time—that she had the wherewithal, the foresight, the wisdom, the forward-thinking—to do such.

Abandoned by her husband, Frederick Beecher, a relative of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charlotte’s mother was forced to rear her children alone, which meant Gilman moved around a lot, and her education suffered as a result.

Despite her opposition to marriage, Charlotte did marry an artist named Charles Stetson in 1884, and in their 10-year marriage, they had a daughter named Katherine. During this time, Charlotte became a social activist. She also suffered a severe depression and underwent a series of unusualtreatments for it. This experience is likely to have inspired her best-known short story The Yellow Wall-Paper, penned in 1892. (If you don’t think being in an unhappy marriage is depressing–this story will convince you.)

While best known for writing fiction, she was also a well-known lecturer and intellectual. One of her greatest nonfiction publications is Women and Economics, published in 1898. Today, many women struggle with being called a feminist—not Charlotte. In this work, she took a bold stand and encouraged women to gain economic independence, cementing her standing as a social theorist.

Other significant works of nonfiction followed, such as The Home: Its Work and Influence (1903) and Does a Man Support His Wife? (1915). Charlotte also established The Forerunner, a magazine where she expressed her own ideas on social reform and women’s issues.

In 1900, Charlotte married again, this time to her cousin George Gilman, and the two remained happily married until he died in 1934. A year later, at the age of 75, Charlotte learned that she had inoperable breast cancer and ended her life, leaving behind a note that said she “chose chloroform over cancer.”

Today, much of her work is beginning to be recognized as important and is being re-published. She had an incredible influence on women of her day, and offers much to us today. Let’s give her the recognition she deserves. Read her books. Let her inspire you. Tell others about her.  Don’t be ashamed to call yourself a feminist.

Instead, name it, and claim it.

 

 

 

 

 

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