by Carol Alwood
Space exists between us and our stories. As much as we can imagine these fictional dreams, we can’t transcribe unfolding events. There’s a rift between what we imagine and what we write. This gap, depending on how wide it becomes, can be the victory or downfall of our books. It may be why readers continue or stop reading.
While I may not have realized I was doing it, I have kept too great of a distance between myself and my stories. There have been times I didn’t care what a character wore. Other times I didn’t want to labor over a secondary character so I can deliver them slippery with humanity into the story. It’s hard. But I’m learning to push away the thick drape of fear I’ll produce inadequate stories and make myself do the hard work so I can write better. No draft is ever stillborn. With multiple attempts and others speaking into our work, the word-product will breathe on its own.
Let’s look at how the simple act of asking “Why?” can help us close the distance between us and our writing.
Keep asking, “Why?”
Why is one of the most powerful words in the English language. It’s one of the most annoying, too. There must be a reason kids go through a phase in which they overuse this word. Why is the word that keeps digging. There’s hardly an end to it! The more you ask, “Why,” the deeper down you’ll dive into the unknown.
Consider driving yourself a bit mad with “Why?” as you prepare to write.
I’ll go first.
Jane sat alone as she ate her pizza.
Jane preferred the booth at the back because nobody could see the size of the pizza she ordered when she faced the wall.
Jane was sick of clothing labels that read, “plus sized” and her friends who stared at her waistline when they thought she wasn’t looking and said things like, “You do you, girl.”
Because she didn’t want to be this way any longer. She longed to wear skinny jeans and tank tops without worrying about the flab on her arms but the more she thought about it the more she wanted cheese stuffed crust with crispy pepperoni.
Her mom made it clear she preferred to spend time with her little sister whose metabolism and appetite was the same as a hummingbird’s.
I could keep going until I got below the surface of what’s going on in her entire family. The more you ask, “Why?” the more specific the answer becomes and the closer you get to the real story you want to tell. This process dredges up painful backstory that can be used to tell a powerful story.
It’s not enough to choose a big story goal while ignoring what’s going on beneath the surface. So, a character wants to lose weight. Why? Maybe a man wants to open up a pet shop. Why? There’s so much to explore the closer you get. Especially as Christian fiction authors, we must approach the unknown and expose hearts so healing can happen.
Happy writing, my friends! Let’s harness the power of, “Why?”Close the gap between you and your story. @AlwoodCarol #ACFWBlogs #writing #writingtip #pubtip Click To Tweet
Carol Alwood is an award-winning author of young adult Christian fiction. She’s also the author of Focused Backstory: The Key to Writing Deep Character Journeys, a resource to help storytellers use character history for maximum reader engagement. She adores her husband, two daughters, and everything fiction.