One of the biggest challenges to me as a writer is my tendency to live most of my life buried deep in my own mind.
This can lead to my prose being, what my editor calls ‘heady.’
I wonder if you feel the same?
The people in my mind are vivid, emotional, real, in a way that can be hard to translate onto paper.
So how do you ground your character in the world?
In their own body?
Here are a few ways that I’ve learned to pull my character out of the ‘head zone.’
- Emotions write themselves in the body.
- What do your characters emotions look like?
- What causes the stomach to tense? The shoulders to rise? These are the things that will ground your character in their own bodies.
- Instead of angry can your character slam a door? Break something? Clench her fist until the nails break skin?
- What does afraid look like? Do her eyes widen? Did his face go pale and clammy?
- Ground your character in the environment.
- When you get to a tense emotional segment, don’t go all the way inside. No one wants an entire paragraph of ‘thought’ or ‘wondered.
- For every time you use an emotion in a sentence, there should be at least one scent, one outside sound, one thing that she touches or moves to balance out the internal angst.
- Remember that the internal and external worlds are connected – you cannot show true emotion in one without the other reflecting it.
- Balance your scenes and postcards.
- Read the amazing article by Donald Maass about the difference between scenes and postcards.
- My first clue that I’m starting to get ‘heady’ is that every paragraph I write feels like a postcard. Everything gets deep, everything gets internal.
- Keeping a balance between scenes and postcards helps the story move along without getting too far away from the character development
- Watch out for ‘Head Words.’
- Your characters can think, wonder, question, imagine, all valid – but all ‘heady.’
- Look for words that reflect more emotion and less thought.
- Try using more word imagery instead of the bald descriptor.
I’ve found that deliberately using these concepts can keep my emotional prose from turning purple, and my action based stories from becoming rote.
I hope you find they help you too!