DIYMFA QOTW 14: And Now for Something …

Monty Python tagline. Image courtesy virtuallawpractice.org

For those who visit the Cave with any regularity, it may be difficult to decide what is ‘different’ from day to day or post to post. However, today will be slightly different I hope.

This week’s question caused me to go back through the DIYMFA text to consider some of the exercises in more detail. I’ll get to the specific question momentarily but first, a bit of a story (you knew it was coming, didn’t you?):

I had decided a century or so that I would re-engage my mind in the world of writing. I’d been too long without putting quill to papyrus and blogging seemed to be the best way to dip my tootsies in the word stream. I found that I enjoyed it quite a lot and wanted to write more. I identified genre, topic, scene … and off I went.

But, as Gabriela has alluded to, we find our inspiration in various places but we also need to look at new sources that allow us to become better learners. This point resonated with me because I worried early on and continue to worry about becoming stagnant in my writing. I think about authors whose works I’ve stopped desiring because it’s just the same ol’ thing all over again. It was boring. And predictable. I didn’t want anyone to say that about my work.

So, here we are, with some fabulous exercises in DIYMFA!

Full confession: I am not presently working on my WIPs (gasp!), in the sense of actually writing. I’m doing a ton of thinking and that will soon lead me to sharpen my quills, honest. I took another gander at the Character Compass and plan to use it to go back through my last completed manuscript. I have shopped it to a few agents and haven’t gotten any bites, so I think checking the ‘who, how, and what’ my characters are doing and saying might help me do a bit more work on it. Gabriela calls this method of inquiry ‘TADA’:

  • Thoughts: what is the character thinking and feeling?
  • Action: what is the character doing?
  • Dialogue: what does the character say?
  • Appearance: what does the character look like?

The Character Compass allows the writer to gain an understanding, through the diagram, of a scene — how much weight has been placed on thought, action, dialogue, or appearance? What’s missing or out of balance, once all scenes and all characters have been mapped thusly? Noting where the writing is out of balance can be helpful in figuring out why (as in my case), the story is possibly not ready for a larger audience yet. This is not to say that such a balance has to be evident in every scene and with every character (remember the QOTW from a few week’s back about the main character?), but if every scene has appearance and no dialogue, action, or thought … we have a problem, don’t we?

Curious about the Character Compass? Go to Chapter 9 in DIYMFA, ‘Bring Those Characters to Life’ and read all about it.

As you think about the Character Compass, which of the four points, Thought, Action, Dialogue, or Appearance, is your comfy place (where most of your scenes end up)? Do you have a favorite writing exercise? Please share it!

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