You’re a fiction writer, and you have a story tell. You’re not standing before the multitudes with a mic in your hand, imparting your setting, reciting dialogue, or displaying the emotion of your characters through body language.
You have to write it in words that will convey to your readers all those things I mentioned. And guess what? You have volumes, thousands upon thousands, of words at your disposal to use to accomplish your task.
So why is it so hard to awaken all the feelings you want your reader to experience?
You have to give someone, one of your characters, the power to use the words you write. They can make the reader feel sadness, joy, fear, hope, devastation, anger, and much more. They have the voice that is telling the story.
But how does a writer make this happen?
Let me ask you this – how well do you know your character? Have you just fashioned them like a clay figure, or have you breathed life into them? Do you know where they are coming from, or have you just told them what to do and say, neglecting to make the connection you need with them.
I have learned through this process of storytelling, that I must let my character have life, and I must know how he/she would react, feel, say, remember, or reach out. I have to know…what is the pain that drives him/her to be who he/she is?
I must be willing to let my character tell the story in their words, through their eyes.
Something I learned from Susan May Warren’s My Book Therapy teaching, is to make a list of questions and interview your character to get to the bottom of what drives her. Go back to their childhood if you need to, and ask questions that will bring out the truth about them.
For instance, in my current WIP, my character has some deep pain that she has glossed over, causing her to stifle the woman God wants her to be. Here is how a conversation with her might go:
Q. What is our favorite thing to do?
A. I love to paint. But I don’t do that anymore.
Q. Why don’t you?
A. My mother was a painter and my father didn’t like her spending so much time on it. I didn’t want to make him angry so I never told him I wanted to paint too.
Q. Does your mother still paint?
A. No. She died. It would have been a sin to go on painting against Father’s wishes.
Q. Why would he wish that?
A. I don’t know. He just wanted me to spend all my time with him after Mother died. I had to do what he wanted me to do. It’s what the Bible says. I wanted to paint so badly, but I had to obey him. He would get very angry when I disobeyed and read to me from the Bible. He sounded as if he was God.
Q. Why was it so important for you to do what he said, especially once you were old enough to make your own decisions?
A. He knew I was weak and would fall into trouble if I made my own decisions. I never could do anything right anyway. I loved me enough to keep me close and away from the world.
Q. Did he ever go overboard with his control?
A. Well, he only did it out of love, but one time he locked me in my room for days because I spoke to a young man on the street by the mailbox. But I deserved to be punished. And he was right. Later I made a huge mistake in my life and he threw me out of the house to be on my own. I was weak and stupid, just like he said. ###
Can you see how little by little I’m getting to the real person in my character? If I kept going, I would find out more about her.
You may think this is a silly exercise, but it starts to flow once you get started. Then you can begin to see life through her eyes, and relay that to your reader. They will feel her pain and joy because you know her so well, you can’t help but infuse your story with emotion from your character’s experience.
You must feel what your character feels. If you don’t feel it – your reader won’t either.