I recently read a series of posts created from a conversation between Victoria Mixon, writer and editor, and Roz Morris author of Nail Your Novel among many others. The first in this 4 part series was Talking Plot followed by Talking Character , Talking Prose, and finally Talking Revision. If you are interested in writing, I would highly recommend reading these posts. I have highlighted a few select parts that stuck out to me, but there is so much more in each of these posts.
Excerpts from Talking Prose:
“Prose is, in fact, the single greatest over-riding quality that separates passing blips on readers’ radar from timeless classics.” ~ Victoria Mixon
When asked what makes good prose “…So what do we find so compelling about this simplicity? Intelligence, perceptiveness. The confidence the writer has to be stylish yet direct. Too many writers assume that good writing has to be complicated, or difficult to read. But good writing doesn’t obfuscate. It lets through all the light it can.”~Roz Morris
Excerpt from Talking Revision:
‘The physics of the story’—such a lovely phrase. Yes, there is great confusion out there about the differences between Copy Editing for correct writing, and Line Editing for beautiful writing, and Developmental Editing for great storytelling. So much of writing a novel happens before you write it. (And then so much happens afterward!) It’s diving deep, deep into the river of this story, swimming at the bottom, feeling into the nooks and crannies between the riverstones for the treasures buried down there. ~Victoria Mixon
The post that stood out to me the most was Talking Character: (Excerpt of part of their conversation)
Victoria: So what’s the single most important thing aspiring writers should know about character?
Roz: Use the plot to test the things the character doesn’t want to face. That makes the most compelling story. It’s the skeletons in the cupboard, the stuff they need to deal with and move on from. Perhaps it’s emotional baggage that’s making them choose the wrong type of boyfriend. The grudge that means they can’t forgive a particular kind of behaviour. The nasty fact they’ve been avoiding. It’s got to be something that’s holding them back or spoiling their lives.
Victoria: Internal conflict. Absolutely. Stories are about people in trouble, characters struggling to save themselves, and the best threats are always internal because those are the ones that are hardest to combat. “You I can walk away from. But me I’m stuck with.”
Roz: Yes, yes, yessity yes! And if they deal with it they will emerge different and free. Which will be extremely satisfying for the reader. Would we be making a simplistic generalisation to say that all truly satisfying stories are really about that question—the ‘me’ that the characters are stuck with? Their own worst enemy who they have to make their peace with? If they can’t achieve that peace, is that tragedy? Even if it’s not high tragedy, it certainly leaves a tragic note.
Victoria: Simplistic generalization? [laughing] You say that like it’s a bad thing! It’s neither simple nor a generalization. It’s the truth. We read to experience the resolution of the protagonist’s worst nightmare, and we have to go through the nightmare to get to the release at the end. In fact, I’d go even further and say we’re reading not for the character’s release but for our own. Storytelling is the careful, powerful, professional construction of a catapult to fling a reader into space toward epiphany. We can’t create the reader’s epiphany—it depends in part upon the reader themself, so each epiphany is a tiny bit different. But a really well-built catapult will put the reader pretty much where the writer wants them to go.
Roz: I wrote about this in a post a short time ago. I work out the emotion I want for the final scene and angle everything towards it. I realised in all my work, even the novels that are only seeds in my head, my last scene would be ‘feels so good to be free’. In each book, the story is about what the character has to do to break into that state of freedom.
I am getting closer to finishing the rough draft for my first novel (Yay!) and have found myself delving deeper into each of my characters- getting drawn in to their lives, trying to understand them, learning their reactions to each circumstance and challenge thrown their way. What has been most unexpected; however, is learning more about myself and seeking a freedom of my own truer nature as I grow myself alongside that of my main character as she grows and becomes and finds freedom in herself.
One example: I am not one to quickly embrace changes in my life. It takes me a little more time to process, but once I come to a resolve within myself I am able to go forward and adapt to the change needed. My main character, however, seems to embrace and accept change, ready to move on to what comes next. I admire this in her and is an attribute that I am learning from (slowly).
I want to always keep growing into and becoming the person I want to be, never to remain stagnant becoming stale and a shell of what I could’ve been. This I believe is also our challenge as writers to provide a catalyst of positive growth for our readers. In order for it to come through in our writing it must first come through us.
I love this part of her quote especially as I had been pondering this very thing before I had the opportunity to read it. I would even add “writing” next to “reading”…
“I’d go even further and say we’re reading not for the character’s release but for our own. Storytelling is the careful, powerful, professional construction of a catapult to fling a reader into space toward epiphany.” ~Victoria Mixon