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Slow Down and Look Around
September 15, 2009 |
I am an aspiring writer and am currently working on a book, but I need some advice on how to proceed. I feel like my characters are moving too fast, things are happening too quickly. I have my plot and everything, but I feel as though I might end it a little too fast. What do you suggest?
Hard to advise a writer in Chico at this distance, Lucy, though I remember Chico fondly from a visit a couple of years ago. A different California from the mythical parts Hollywood and hippiedom and I loved the little one-story white wood house where I stayed ...
a sort of shotgun-style ranch house in which the breeze could breeze on through. It was an amiable town and I especially remember the friendly breakfast that an amiable man at UC arranged and what a friendly hour it was over coffee and frittatas. My abiding experience of California over many years is amiability, mellowness, a friendly open attitude. I met some Californians a month ago in northern Michigan and we sat down to dinner and it turned out to be one of those sweet friendly encounters with strangers that goes on for three hours and you want it to go on a couple more.
If I were a California writer, I would try to describe this sense of easiness and perhaps tie it to the landscape and the climate. I'd write about people in love with their home. But they must deal with the same troubles that afflict other humans, and not only mudslides, earthquakes, and brush fires, but also the dreadful problem of indifference. Spiritual listlessness, what is sometimes included under Sloth, or Acedia, in the Seven Deadly Sins. The inability to carry out one's duties. Not an easy subject, indifference, but it's very much part of most good crime novels. Injustice is supposed to arouse us from indifference: an essential test of our humanity. And indifference is the prime target of satire. Your characters might need to slow down and look around them and be moved by things outside themselves, including the vast indifference of the world. And you, in writing this fast-paced novel, might need to allow yourself the freedom to make those sudden astonishing discoveries about your characters that are a beautiful reward for aIl the hard work. Writing opens up continual new possibilities and characters reshape themselves as you try to pin them down. You may be underestimating your characters, not letting them breathe and sing and jump around. Characters start out as cardboard cutouts and then they start to talk back to us. We create small mean characters and they develop endearing traits and our heroes prove to be shallower than we'd hoped. But don't let me tell you what to do, Lucy. Most books are too long, so I shouldn't be telling you to extend yours. I just hope your novel is set in Chico.