Over at Lunch Ticket, Bettina Gilois writes a blog called “Writing: The Toolbox.” In her 8th installment, she discusses character, and the necessity for a reader’s emotional investment:
As writers we are the pusher man for the reader, we control supply and demand. We get the reader hooked, and once hooked we tease with a controlled giving and taking, dealing in identification and fantasy, creating want and tension, and doling out relief and reward.
Gilois advises writers to incorporate philosophical statements as part of character building:
Philosophical statements by your characters elevate the material from a pragmatic and dramatic narrative to something that holds greater value and endures through time. While it also serves as characterization, it satisfies the reader with recognition of self in the greater context of what it means to be human.
To me, this is what mediocre writing lacks. As a young adult author, it’s important to provide sustenance in a variety of ways–be it philosophical statements or scenes that place characters in difficult situations in order to prove their mettle (or not, because that can be fun, too). In these ways, a young reader receives more than just entertainment. She is nourished by the story; he learns without an obvious moral.
So, how do you accomplish this task of writing with purpose? How do you use your characters to say something important?
I’m beginning a new YA novel that threatens to be a complicated mess if I don’t figure out a good way to organize it. As a college composition instructor, I continuously preach the importance of prewriting exercises, including the great and wonderful outline. I searched for a book to help me with this, because I felt a little overwhelmed by all of my ideas and didn’t know how I should organize them into a coherent storyline.
I happened upon K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success. I’m only three chapters into it, but she’s already provided some priceless help. Thus far, I’ve written my “perfect review,” based on her advice:
Often, when we begin writing a story, our ideas are hazy, and the final shape of the story is only a dim outline in the mist. The story we put on the page will never be a perfect representation of the story in our imagination, so it’s little wonder we aren’t always aware of where our stories fall short. But here’s a little trick to narrow the gap between your idealization of your story and its printed reality: Write yourself the “perfect” review before your story ever hits paper. (36-7)
She also recommends downloading yWriter from spacejock.com. This program provides an organizer that allows you to enter chapter summaries, scene descriptions, character bios, and a plethora of other information about your projects. It took about two minutes for it to download and it was completely FREE! I’ll spend some time playing around with it, but it looks like an asset to anyone who needs a bit of extra help organizing their thoughts. ~ Jennifer