Saturday, September 25, 2010

Things that Help You Write

Howdy, all! (Ok, I really have never said that out loud before, but it looks good and sounds friendly, right?) I'm underway with fall semester, tackling my first time going full time and wowza! Let me tell you...there's never a moment I don't have something to do! If for some reason I don't get a job after I graduate (um, but I will, right? Right.) I'm going to go crazy suddenly not having much to do during the day. For those that don't know, I'm majoring in early childhood thru 6th grade education. My favorite class this semester, by far, is my musical education class. Then I have biology *gag* which, I'm lucky I have a great teacher but it's still going to be a hard class...and not looking forward to the fetal pig dissection.

But my other two classes are observation classes, and one requires me to watch children in a classroom. This got me to thinking about writing, because in a lot of ways, us writers get inspiration based on other people. Now, this isn't other people's idea's I'm talking about (today, anyway). We all know most writers get ideas, or some form of an idea, from other writers or creators. What I'm talking about is more character ideas. In class, we don't just watch their physical movement, we try to observe to understand the thought process. Why is little Susie running around like a crazy child? At first, a lot of us immediately make judgment that Susie is ADHD and probably gets away with everything at home. She's always difficult, has a hard time staying on task, and disrupts the other kids. But then you, let's say, hear a story from another teacher about a child they had in their class that was similar. Are you following me? After hearing how this teacher handled the other child, we go back to our class and watch Susie with a new set of eyes and understanding. We start giving her more leadership tasks to expend some of that energy, things like passing out stuff to keep her up and moving. After hearing from the other teacher, we realize Susie actually has a sense of humor and isn't always trying to be a nuisance. So we back off a little, understand her personality, and the relationship between teacher and student changes and strengthens because of that understanding.

Ok, so it wasn't the best example, but I just got done cramming information into my brain about electrons and ionic bonds and compounds and crap. So there's my excuse. The whole point was that as a writer, we could take a lot from this lesson of observation and put it into our character development. I hear of a lot of writers working in their local coffee shop and people-watch. It can definitely lead to some interesting ideas and characters, but is it the conversation we "watch" more than the actual people? Do we really delve into why they say/react/do things, or do we leave that up to our imagination once we have a general sketch? Just some food for thought.

Now, off I go to revise! I'm halfway through and can I see, I love revising? I really do. To the point I daydream about it on the way to school and then don't want to be at school once I get there, but want to be revising!

Happy weekend!


  1. That's so true. That's why I love being slotted into the blogging community.

    Everytime I ask something, I get to hear a dozen writers' perspectives and advice. It's brilliant!


  2. Tried to leave a comment and lost it, so hope this won't show up twice!

    You are absolutely right about basing characters on real people. My Mary Queen of Scots is based on our neighbors' daughter and she is perfect for the part. I watch her and my Mary comes to life. She's no longer just the iconic historical figure everyone imagines... she is a flesh-and-blood nineteen-year-old girl.

  3. Nice post Carol. And as a teacher (currently a SAHM) with a master in elementary education, you hit it right on the nose. It is so easy to make judgment and not really think or figure out what's really behind a person's actions, reactions, attitudes etc. There are so many dynamics that go into making us who we are and its important to capture that in our characters. Good luck with school!

  4. Grrrr....sorry, I had written CristaCarol and then deleted Christa instead of Carol. Sorry :-(

  5. Melanie, no problem! I get all sorts of different versions. Especially from telemarketers! ;-) And your last line really summed it all up well.

  6. Hope your revise went well! Anyways, to your question: I think "real" people always provide inspiration. I got one of me best lines/character descriptions ever when I was riding (blech) the bus in Chicago.


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