I started writing somewhere around third grade, as a way to escape my family’s home life, to run from the bullies on the asphalt playground, and for another reason that had and has nothing to do with escape. I love playing with words. I love the sound of words, rolling them off my tongue, curving them on the line with a pen or pencil. And, older, I love the speed with which the keyboard lets me pour them out.
I want to know how the story ends. Any story. The stories I wake up to and rush to write down. The story I catch part of as some movie trailer or television commercial flips by when my kids steal the remote. The stories in the books stacked beside my bed so high I can’t open my end table’s top drawer. I want to know how the stories in my head end.
The ones I don’t have time to write. That’s what this blog is about (you’ve been wondering where I was going with this, right?). I have a very full-time job—professors don’t just teach, they grade. And go to committee meetings. And grade some more. Plus, I’m a Mommy. So, for the most part, I have very little time to write between breaks—weeks, and now months have gone by. I’m hungry. I look at my plot chart and want to cry, or at least stare longingly. I can’t even count down—the day when I can write again seems too far away.
So, since I can’t really write now, I’m subverting my passion into characterization. So many writing advisors, columnists, people who know more than I do, tell me all my characters have to have a goal. What do said characters want so badly they can’t think about it, if they can’t have it? I know I have at least one of my heroines running away from something rather than to something. A problem with the story, perhaps? Or maybe the motive is hidden, an internal desire they know they can’t have (a full-time writing career perhaps) so they never have the guts to say it out loud?
I don’t think a real goal or motive can be something you are able to put off indefinitely without symptoms of malaise. In my psychology world, there is the idea that if you repress your desires too long, too much, you have only a few options. You stop wanting that thing and maybe learn to hate it. Or you start hurting yourself, or get hurt by an inner fire. Or the desire eeks out, some Freudian slip showing who you really are and what you really want. Or you can’t stop thinking about it, tell yourself that if you just do this, then you can have it. You make deals with God.
Do your characters have something they need so badly, that serious repercussions follow--to them—and maybe the rest of the world—if they don’t get it?
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