owl in winter

owl in winter

Friday, December 4, 2009

Back to Work

I need to get back to work, the real work, the nourishing, cleansing work that has been so important to me the last four or five years. It's the nuts and bolts that I need now. I've languished too long, worrying about creativity, worrying about not having enough time, worrying about how to get it all done and just not starting it. I make a promise to myself to dive back into my passion with all my heart.

I haven't talked about the MIP much, which doesn't lend much credibility to me as a writer but a writer I am and not so much a teacher but, more of a cheerleader to you and other writers out there who need to hear the words, "you can write." So, before I go back to work on the MIP, let's link arms for a second and say, "we are writers. We write."

Layers. Let's talk about layers for a minute.

I can relate this idea back to cooking (of course). I know people who season in the beginning or who season at the very end of a dish but, neither approach is right. Season the layers. Think about those onions sauteing in butter. Go ahead, salt and pepper them. Throw a little garlic in, or thyme, or red pepper flakes, whatever gives you a kick, whatever moves the dish along. Maybe then, you drop in some flour, stir that around and then pour in your liquid. How about a little more salt, a little more pepper, a little more something-something to give it some jazz? You're stirring your sauce, it's thickened, it's almost finished. Pull out some nutmeg, maybe or a little more thyme, a little more red pepper flakes. Now you've got it.

It's the same sort of thing with our characters. We must give our characters life, we must give them energy (whether good or bad), we must provide them with depth. Where do they come from? What was their childhood like? Were they abandoned once? Did they witness a terrible act? What was their favorite vacation? What memories do they have of other places? Think about a joyful moment in their lives, something that will bear on the story you are telling. Describe it. Why does it matter so much?

So, when we're developing our characters, we pull from the pantry of our imagination the garlic, the cumin, the chives and we begin our layers, we give our characters depth of flavor. Let your characters speak to you, listen to their voices.

Does this make sense to you?

By the way, the photo above contains several books that I believe are useful to any writer. All of them can be found at Barnes & Noble. One is "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg. Donald Maass's "The Career Novelist" and "Writing the Breakout Novel" are also featured, as well as an edition of "Writers Digest" with one of my favorite authors on the front, Anne Tyler. The purple print-out contains an article I wrote for a dear friend and it is actually the program guide to the Indian celebration she allowed me to be a part of this past spring. Go to http://www.amykitchenerfdn.org/ for more details on the Trail of Tears and the Weeping Waters Cultural Heritage Award.

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