Thursday, February 14, 2013

Indulging in a little wallowing

Are you taking the A to Z Challenge in April? I did it last year. It was grueling, fascinating, exhausting, and drew a lot of attention to my blog. This year, I'm going to be blog touring in April to support my release of Disciple, Part II -- which means if you're stuck for a certain letter I WILL GLADLY GUEST BLOG THAT FOR YOU if you'll let me plug my book. Email me: blankenship.louise at gmail dot com. Already taken: L, and either I or Y.

It might be because of my own run-ins with depression, but I have trouble letting characters wallow in their misery. Writing scenes of despair... well, when you look at the darkness the darkness looks back. And despair knows me, that's for sure.

But. Pics or it didn't happen, as they say. Show, don't tell.

This tangentially ties in to the dark night of the soul, letting characters face your demons, and earning that win -- not all consequences are faced physically. Emotional consequences play out in the emotions first, and might manifest as actions as a result of that, whether it's drinking, getting into fights, or attempting suicide...

The danger that my gut is warning me of, in letting characters wallow, is that they aren't moving the plot forward. Lying in bed crying might me accurate realism, maybe even sympathetic character development, but it's difficult to use that to get to the next phase of the story.

Your character might have some intuitive light-bulb moment while crying in bed. An angry guy might go out, get drunk, and pick a fight with just the right/wrong person... which could work or could seem too convenient, depending on the serendipity involved. How would you use your character's melancholy ruminations to keep the plot moving?

Writing the scene can be technically challenging too. Is the character just lying in bed, face in the pillow? If they're doing something, how do you work their emotions into the action? How's your stock of metaphors, and what will you do when you've used all your melancholy adjectives and now you need some more?

This is on my mind because of the revisions I'm making to Disciple, Part V. It felt very... lean in the writing; my gut said it needed more, but waffled over what that was. My betas have indicated that the "more" may be some wallowing. It doesn't sit easy, but my betas have never steered me wrong.


Allyson Lindt said...

Wallowing is probably my hardest thing to write, because I definitely sink into it with my characters. I have to be in a frame of mind where I can recover after I write it, and where I do actually push my characters to do something with it instead of just surrendering.

And as far as metaphor and adjectives...I have so many gaping, aching chests, and churning guts, you'd think sometimes I was writing epic war scenes. So I'm completely with you on this one :-D

Liz said...

I don't like reading wallowing, but then again, sometimes the characters need a beat or two to absorb. I think perhaps a little goes a long way.

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