Note to self…

…Next time you’re having trouble getting the story flowing, Leife, stop and have a think about how you can make that particular plot point have emotional consequences for your characters.

The desperate man, Gustave Courbet, 1845

I’m amazed at how often I forget basic pieces of writing advice. Then when I remember a thing I’ve known for years (usually when I’m in the shower), it’s an epiphany.

I’ve been struggling to move my current WIP along for the last couple of weeks. It’s been a bit puzzling. I’ve got that bit of plot all mapped out. I know what’s supposed to happen. But, somehow, I just haven’t managed to bring it to life.

Medea, Frederick Sandys, 1868

I’d put it down to the depressing necessity of returning to work after holidays, tiredness, general malaise, burnout from having gone hammer-and-tongs at the manuscript in the two months leading up to Christmas. I couldn’t figure it out.

Miss Clive “In Love’s Shadow” or Proud Maisie, by Frederick Sandys, 1867

Then, in the shower today (of course), I worked it out. I had a plot point. I had a thing that had to happen to move the story along, but it was entirely mechanical and bereft of any emotional impact on my characters. I just had to spend a few minutes thinking about how I could use the scene to mess up my characters some more add an element of emotional narrative to the scene and Voila! It came alive.

Somewhere along the way I’ve picked up the term “emotional stepping stones”. This idea resonates strongly with me and how I like to write. I can plot out a sequence of events for my story, but what brings it to life in my mind and gets my creative juices flowing is the emotional touchstones of a character’s arc. Every time I think about a candy bar scene that I had to get up in the middle of the night to write, it’s a scene involving some kind of emotional high (or low) for my character.

So that’s my note to myself. To remember that my story isn’t just a sequence of events, but a series of emotional stepping-stones, and that, actually, is what keeps me interested.

So glad I sorted that out. Now have some more Pre-Raphaelite pictures of beautiful people having emotions.

Joan of Arc, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, 1882
Simeon Solomon
Young Rabbi Holding the Torah, Simeon Solomon, 1871

2 thoughts on “Note to self…

  1. Writing often seems like it’s a process of learning the same things over and over, doesn’t it? Right now, my lesson seems to be that if I’m having trouble getting words down on the page it’s because I need to get clear where I’m going.

    I hope things have picked up for you and your WIP.

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