Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Change of Seasons: Shifting a Character's World View


     Change is on my mind a lot lately.
     My middle child will be a senior next year, and our youngest is only two short years behind him. Suddenly the house seems too big and too quiet much too often. Where once I looked forward to getting out for peace and quiet, some 'me time', I now find I'm here alone more than I want to be. I'm thinking about 'me time' in a different context now. When the kids were small, time was scarce. Now it can be a great expanse.
     Change is inevitable.
     I'm struggling with a character in my work-in-progress. I worry that she isn't changing enough throughout the course of the manuscript. Or that the scene when she realizes she needs to adopt a different world view isn't strong enough. Yet I can't be TOO obvious or I risk sounding like I don't trust the reader to figure it out on her own. After finishing Donald Maass's The Fire in Fiction, I'm rereading (and highlighting like crazy) parts on inner turning points and measuring change over time. It's a fantastic guide if you struggle with showing emotional conflict like I do.
     Change is hard.
     Last night I watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Great movie! The book, by author Stephen Chbosky, was even better (in my opinion) in the way that words sometimes pack a bigger emotional punch than images. There is a scene in the book when one of the characters wrestles with change:

     'It's much easier to not know things sometimes. Things change and friends leave. And life doesn't stop for anybody. I wanted to laugh. Or maybe get mad. Or maybe shrug at how strange everybody was, especially me. I think the idea is that every person has to live for his or her own life and than make the choice to share it with other people. You can't just sit there and put everybody's lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can't. You have to do things. I'm going to do what I want to do. I'm going to be who I really am. And I'm going to figure out what that is.'  

     Change is empowering.
   

Monday, May 20, 2013

Transitions and 'Making Good Art'

     It's that time of year for ceremonies, newspaper photos of graduates in caps and gowns, and the parties. Of course, the parties. I can't help but think of Neil Gaiman's  commencement address from last year which he gave to the graduating class at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He urged each one of those students to follow their passion, to not follow the rules, and to 'make good art'. I wish I could have heard this message at eighteen and about to head off to college to study journalism. Whatever impact it might have had, it's one I wouldn't have forgotten.
 
     A friend told me recently about a man she'd sat next to on a train, a twenty-five-year-old stock broker who had majored in business at the insistence of his parents. He was unhappy, recently divorced, and hated, hated his job. He openly wished he worked in a more creative field, one in which he could fulfill his desire to 'make something'.
    That man's elusive something is what Gaiman's speech encompassed. It's a great motivator if you need one, and it makes me feel thankful that I'm a writer. It's not too late for that young guy to follow his passion. It's never too late to 'make good art.'
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