Besides … I think my topic today really is about the blues. Or “feelings”. Uggg.
See – I’m not really overly fond of “feelings”. I display a great many feeling – and they really embarrass me, because I can’t control them, and they overwhelm me – and then everyone else knows what’s going on with me too. And quite honestly, I would prefer to be more discreet about what makes me sad and angry. (although WRITING about the whole thing CLEARLY doesn't bother me)
So – last night at class – we were supposed to talk about “the central image” or the “essence” of one of our characters. Something “sensate”. And I came up with ….? Nothin’.
In order to try and understand the concept, we talked a little bit about Josiah – and I kept discussing how he looks at things, and the things that puzzle him, and how he’s always digging for the mechanics or logic in people and life. (wbtw I thought was pretty good). BUT …. none of that is SENSORY. It’s not a taste, or a texture, or a smell. The instructor really wanted me to concentrate on digging or dredging – and what that means and why that might be the essence of Josiah. I sat there and come up with explanations and TELLING her. - which in writing is fail. You don’t want to read about what a character THINKS about something … you want to FEEL what they feel. Also the whole SHOW don’t TELL thing.
She talked about how clearly Josiah is very logical – but what drives him to be logical? What does it protect him against? What does he FEEL? And she used all this hippy-dippy language and talked about INTUITIVE thinking… and I don’t get it.
I WANT to get it. I WANT to (maybe not really) tap into that level of my character – because I really want this to be a successful story. But I’m not there. I asked her HOW … How do you get there? What are some exercises or projects I can try and do … and she said it was really difficult for her to put into words, “Because I’ve been doing it so long. But I just know after about 10-12 pages of typing a character WHO they are … I know what their essence is.”
Which is LOVELY for her … but not so much a big help to me. She used as an example one of her current characters …. Penelope. Her “essence” is her big bunny slippers and “Strunk and White’s, “Rules of Grammar”. It’s her bible. Literally. Penelope tells everyone, would "The World is coming to an end. Don't forget to use a period!" (Or something like that. It’s actually quite hilarious – and I am butchering it badly.)
And that is all very illuminating, but I still don’t GET IT. And I refuse (except here) to be one of those big whiny baby writers and say, “YOU (the reader) just don’t get it!” or “You’re not reading it right” – because deep down, I think she’s right. She’s asking me to see a complex and multi-facetted and flawed human – with FEELINGS … and that pretty much makes me want to puke.
I also want to stick in here how glad I have someone to guide me and point out all the “beginner” mistakes – and push me to writing something that is (will be) very satisfying – and hopefully good. Not just “eh, first time I’ve every tried to write good”, but “You’ve worked hard on your craft – and this is GOOD”, type good.
So I’m sending her an eMail to ask her if she can’t give me some more suggestions and exercises to try and get at this “essence” thing.
And – of course – I’m slightly appalled and afraid. EWWWWWW – they want me to do FEELINGS. (Which is clearly MY own hang up – I really am not INTERESTED in going-down-this-path-thank-you-so-very-much.)
Anyway – it’s the weekend. It’s going to be hot, and muggy, and rainy on Saturday – and just hot (or at least what they think is hot, here) on Sunday.
I’m going to do some cooking. And mulling and stewing (about Josiah) – and thinking about the great Beer Brat BBQ going on at Heather’s in Casa Grande, Arizona.
Happy Father’s Day to you dads out there – and happy “Thank God it’s the weekend” to the rest of you.