Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Motivation and Reaction
Took me a long time to understand this bit from Techniques of a Selling Writer by Dwight V Swain. It's not that I didn't use this technique when writing my stories. This was one of the books I read early on in my writing career and I always regretted coming to the fiction world when I was a wife and mother and never had a chance to attend a course given by the author of this book on writing. Years later I'm still using what's taught in this book but now it's become rather automatic and while reading this again, I really had to think.
We all know characters are motivated by many things. Some of them stem back to their early days. When I first began to write I looked at motivation as belonging to the large picture. Why did they choose a particular goal? What motivated a character to act in a certain way? I selected a motive for each of the major characters in the story and went on from there, not bothering to look at what motivated them to react to each small thing to enter their environment. This worked early on but then there are the small reactions that add meat to the story.
What I read in this great book taught me how to look at each reaction to some stimuli. Then what I was writing became confusing since I'd forgotten one thing. Each scene in the story has a focus character. I was doing this for every main character in a scene and muddied the waters. While reading this section of Techniques of the Selling Writer, I realized that while two or more of the main characters were in a scene, only one could be the focus character for that scene. So here goes what I learned to steer me into making the right choices for the action.
The first sentence in the sequence does not have the focus character's name, description, or any element of them. For example - A shot rang out. Tamara slid to the floor. Or something like this - Jim's mouth made promises. Sally's body trembled as she wondered if she wanted to accept. These simple sentences can be broken apart into showing the sequence step by step and enhancing the story. Doing this often enough and mastery happens. Suddenly what was muddy becomes clear and the reader will learn a lot about the focus character. Move to the next scene and choose another character for the focus of that scene. The story builds and the emotional impact increases.