“Write about what you know and care deeply about. When one puts one’s self on paper — that is what is called good writing.” ~Joel Chandler Harris
I’m no expert but I do know that when you write a book and/or character, a lot of research has to go into it to make it believable. For example, one author I spoke to recently used firearms in her book so she took shooting lessons. This is what we, as responsible writers, do – strive for authenticity. More so, this is what we wake in the morning itching to do…
Researching is one of my favorite aspects of writing, it makes me giddy inside.
For my first novel - which now lives under the bed - my main character was a thief named Lizzy.
When Lizzy learned how to lock pick I learned how to lock pick. I watched youtube videos for hours and hours and because I didn’t have a lock picking set (yet) I made my first picks out of paper clips. I then proceeded to pick every lock in my house. Within a week I could pick the deadbolt on my front door with a paper clip (actually 2 paper clips as one is used as the tension wrench) in under 30 seconds. No, this did not make me feel safe but it did make me feel quite accomplished. That’s when I realized I’ve always been a lock picker. It started when I was a wee tot and would pick the bathroom locks with broken off Q-tips, the cardboard ones, not the plastic ones. I didn’t understand the mechanism of a lock (tumblers and the shear line) then but I still had the innate ability to do it. Maybe it’s because I spent many hours locked in my room, true story. Or maybe it’s because when I set my mind to do something I do it. Persistence-are-us. Who knows why? It doesn’t really matter.
What matters is throwing yourself headlong into that research. Almost as if you’re an actor and you’re method acting. You become your character. Lock picking can even be a metaphor for whatever it is you need to learn in order for your character to be believable and well rounded. You could go into your story and character development giving them a skill you have already mastered, one you’ve always wanted to learn or one you knew as a child but forgot somewhere along the way.
What I’ve learned from writing thus far is that a majority of it crawls up from the deepest, darkest hidden parts of ourselves, clawing and scratching its way to the surface, staining the blank pages of our lives.
By Chloe Adler
Sometimes writing is like being in a trance. How else can it be explained? When people have experiences, like taking the kids to the zoo for the first time or falling in love; we remember them. We may even remember what our lover was wearing the first time we laid eyes on him or her. We may remember how they wore their hair, what jewelry they had on and even what they said. The emotions we felt and some of their physical aspects are burned into our memories like a hot poker or more apropos, like a brand.
For me, writing is the opposite of that. Many times I write a scene, a chapter or even an entire novel and then I re-read it and have no recollection of writing it. I noticed this strange phenomenon starting with my first novel a few years back.
Last month I was re-reading a scene I’d written a week or two earlier. As I was reading it I actually gasped and said aloud… “He’s adopted?” The two writers in my writer’s group looked up quizzically because they both knew I was reading my own work. Then they laughed.
I asked, “Do you guys ever forget what you write?”
They responded with, “Sure sometimes, but not key elements like that.”
In my defense even though I’d plotted this book, I’ve allowed myself a lot of leeway. I may know the GMC (goal, motivation, conflict) going into each scene but I may not know how that’s achieved until it happens. So in this particular scene my secondary character, the hero, suddenly announced that he was adopted. This happened close to the end of the second act, not at the beginning of the manuscript. And thus, I had forgotten and was shocked to re-discover the bump. Plus, so much about his character and choices earlier in the book suddenly made sense.
Even more recently I was writing a scene, the one before “the black moment” and during it I got really bored. I don’t have to point out that this is not a good sign. I stopped writing and thought about it for a few days. Suddenly a quick fix came to me but I didn’t think out the details. Instead I sat down to write and the details blossomed beneath my fingertips. I still have no idea how the correct words “came to me”. Maybe that’s called “being in the zone”.
Pay attention to that - those moments when it feels like you’re reading someone else’s book even though you wrote it. That’s a delicious place to be.
By Chloe Adler