Here are some of the ways your characters will lead their inner lives. With their imagination they will:
Take one or two and run with them….see who you find!
(adapted from What If? : Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers)
Author, editor and writing coach Jeff Gerke has a pretty damn good theory about writers. And a pretty simple one at that: all things considered, we fall into just two types. (I know, and you thought you were so original!) But his theory stands up. Willing to admit it or not, there are those among us who are great with characters, setting, world-building and description and those who excel at plot…at connecting the dots, telling the story, taking us seamlessly from rising action through conflict upon conflict until we don’t even care who the story is about because we can’t wait to get to the twist at the end.
Unfortunately, the writer who is equally skilled in both plot and character is rare. Most of us tend to lean heavily towards one side or the other. The problem is…for fiction to be truly outstanding, it is vital that it be rock solid in both areas. This can be wearisome and exasperating, especially when we know where our weakness lie but have given up on the idea of any sort of a solution. We’ve resigned ourselves to the extra months of sweat and tears to try and make sense of the ‘other side’ of the writing divide. You know, the one all mysterious and shrouded in darkness.
Luckily for us, Gerke brought along a big flashlight! He didn’t let the insight he had about these two strikingly different writing styles wither in the back of a notebook somewhere. He sat down and did something about it, creating a few ingenious writing tools that offer us a glimpse into the brain of those living on that scary ‘other side’. Once you are actually thinking like a character maven or a plot genius it’s a simple step by step process. There’s plenty of work involved, but stay on the path, and you will have fantastically rich characters and stay-up-all-night plots carrying your novel all the way to the publishing house.