Wednesday, March 5, 2014


I recently attended the annual American Night Writer's Association Writer's Conference.  As expected, I had a great time, met some awesome people and learned more than I can write about in one sitting.    One of the concepts that I carried away from all of the excellent presenters is that of perspective.

  As writers we talk about, read about and analyze point of view continuously- because it is not just an important aspect of the story, it is the essence of the story.  It is the who through whose eyes we see the world we create and how they see it and why.  It illustrates or introduces the other all important element- voice.  

Everyone has a story.  Everyone has a voice.  Like the cliche snowflake, none of them are exactly alike. Voice is the personality of your characters coming out in  their words, and the way they do things- how you portray them. It is what bonds your readers to your characters.  

 We all share certain human experiences, however each of us have individual life experiences.  If, as Shrek says, ogres are like onions- they have layers, then people of all ages are like ogres. To write effectively, meaningfully we need to know this and  a few other things.  

We need to know the audience we are writing to.  While there are things that are universal about being a human, a ten- year old is not going to get into a story that describes the frustrations and joys of being a thirty- year old mother any more than a thirty-year old mother will want to read about child super heroes who wear underwear on their heads. 

 If you are a thirty-year old or older, can you remember being ten?  Do you know any ten-year olds?  If you want them to like your story, you need to get to know them. Bring out that inner child and remember what it was like to feel like you were grown up yet the world continued to see you as a little kid.  Do you remember what you worried about?  Do you know what the children (women, men, teens) worry about today?  What do they love, hate, want, wish?  How do they talk?  What have they experienced?  It is amazing how much one can experience in ten years of life, not to mention thirty.  

One of the things that comes out when you delve into this, is that people are not always what they seem on the surface.  Buford from Phineas and Ferb comes to mind. He's a bully that speaks fluent French, knows Latin, sobs about his missing goldfish and wants his friends to think he is nice. Layers. Outside of it being funny, why is he like that? Were you ever bullied?  Did you ever know a bully? What do you think of them as an adult?  Yes, even bad guys have layers.

You need to know your characters.  Yes, you are creating them and yes they exist for as long as the paper their lives are printed on does, or the computer they are stored on is accessible.  Do you really know who you have created?  They are fictional, but to be believable, they have to have some meat on their bones- figuratively speaking.  They need the same kind of wants, wishes, loves, hates, faults and good points- layers your readers have to be important enough to read about.  The mean girl is not just a mean girl, she is someone's daughter or sister or girlfriend or all of the above or maybe she wants to be one or all of them. Why is she like that? 

 We want to see ourselves in the stories we read.  We want to hear our voice, our hurts, joys. fears and feelings expressed by the characters in the stories we read because it is a safer place than our real lives to deal with them.  Maybe it is even a safer place to deal with them as the writer. 

You need to know that you are a writer and that what you have to say matters.  You need to see what you do as important.  Even if it is only important to you or your family, it is important.  The things you put down in words have great potential to do good but only if you put them down.  

How do you see yourself?  It will make a big difference in how you choose to spend your time and whether or not you give up on your writing.  It is not easy to be a writer especially if you have a family or a job or a dog, but if you have to write, you are a writer and accepting it and moving forward will ultimately be worth it.  The voices in your head, the histories and romances that have never really been are not going to just go away without a fight, so join them.  Give them life and maybe the way you see things, your voice, your perspective will influence someone else for the better.                        

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