Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Character-Building Lesson for Thanksgiving

I had the pleasure today to speak to the students in Providence High School’s Creative Writing Class. My mission was to talk about developing characters and how to make them believable and likeable. We had great fun with the hats I brought as we brainstormed who would wear them and how the character could change by modifying the angle of a hat.

What the students didn’t know was I was stuck in my current work in progress (The third Mitch Malone Mystery with a working title of A Case of Hometown Blues). I wasn’t sure how to proceed and had been agonizing for several days trying to get unblocked. In addition, I had my Mitch Malone character in my head trying to get me going if nothing more than jumping forward to write the end and then back tracking. I’d convinced myself I was going to do that just as soon as I talked to the class, but I wasn’t happy about it. I had the rest of the morning to write and I was going to do something productive if it killed me.

Like most things, I was in the middle of my presentation when disaster/inspiration struck. I knew what I had to do in my book. I needed an impartial third party character. Unfortunately, I completely lost my train of thought to the students as the creative wheels started rolling again. I looked around at the students, regrouped and continued my presentation after a couple of seconds, which to me seemed like minutes. I’m not sure if they noticed or not.

After I left I realized I had never given them an opportunity to ask questions. I was excited for a date with my computer, not dreading it. As Thanksgiving approaches in less than 48 hours, I have realized an important lesson: Don’t stress and fret over a problem. Get out and share your craft with others. It is the best therapy for writer’s block. While it may not solve your problem, you will have accomplished something. For me, talking about how to develop memorable characters led me to the fix I needed – a new character. Now that is character building and something to be thankful about. Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo: Author W.S. Gager is pictured with students from Providence High School’s Creative Writing Class. Thanks Samantha, Chance and Grace. You were the perfect inspiration!

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