A few weeks ago, as I was wandering a used bookstore, I happened upon a boxed set of cards and book called, “The Observation Deck: A Took Kit for Writers,” by Naomi Epel. It’s an interesting set – each card says something seemingly simple and the book gives the card’s meaning. What I like about it is that it kind of functions as a writer’s oracle deck too: you can just pick a card and sit with it, letting the card’s meaning come to you instead of just looking it up in the book.
The card I’ve been sitting with for the last few days is called, “locate the fear.” On sitting with it, I took it as personal advice: locate the fear in my life, in my writing. Locate the fear that’s holding my novel up. Because I am able to write – I wrote a new picture book just a week or so ago – I just can’t seem to work through my novel.
I went to my annual SCBWI writing conference more than a month ago but I’m still feeling the impact of some of the writing exercises we did. And maybe that’s why this card is personal to me: it pointed up an area where I need to do some personal inner work before I can progress in my novel.
Now, what does the book say about this card? Well it has three full pages about it so we’ll just go with this quote:
Every character is afraid of something – of loss, of failure, of success, of being unmasked – and drama is to be found in how each character copes with his or her fears. […] In order to give your characters depth and your stories dramatic tension, you must determine what your characters fear and how they deal with it.
I know my main character’s fear (or rather fears – she’s dealing with a lot), but I don’t know what the other characters fear. And I don’t know what their motivations are. Something to think about. Just as I think about cutting out another of her friends – is he really necessary to the story? He was necessary when the story was in an earlier evolution but not so much now…
Good luck figuring out your character’s fears. And just remember to do something fun after you’ve spent some time delving into them; I find it’s very easy to get lost in your character’s world and need something to take my mind off it when I’m done. Like the Smurfs. The Smurfs will always do it. Nite all!