Character Sketches

April 6, 2010

I’m rather happy with myself at the moment.  For the first time in my life, I’m using a Moleskine notebook the way that it was meant to be used.  I actually lost the first Moleskine I ever had.  It was black, unlined, with a pocket in the back, a lot of pages, and a bookmark.  A lot like the one I’m using now, except this one has lined pages.  But every other Moleskine I have ever had I just use for random notes.  Nothing is sequential or organized.  There will be one random thing written on one page, 8 blank pages, and then two pages of random notetaking again.  But now I’m actually using it how it was meant to be used, and it’s helping.  It’s my idea notebook.  I carry it with me everywhere and keep it near my bed when I sleep.  When a good idea hits, I make it a habit to stop what I’m doing and write it down.  If I can’t right away, I don’t let the idea get away from my thoughts.  That’s a good thing for me to do, too, because then I get to let it stew and change and I can really begin polishing an idea before I even get it down.  I only have three pages filled so far, but it reads like a sporadic writing prompt booklet.  A lot of questions and fragments of sentences, which is how I like to put my ideas down.  I don’t need a full thought, and sometimes I don’t know where I want to go with an idea. The point is to get it down.  I’ve already started coming back to some ideas, and the questions I leave for myself help me find directions in which to go.  And then I repeat the process.  My goal in it is to help me write out my thoughts and ideas so they aren’t lost and so I can develop them slowly, and so one day I can go through it and see the progression and development of an idea.  It’s just the way I like to work.

That being said, yesterday I had maybe one idea for a short story, and I didn’t know the length it would wind up being.  Now, I have about three story ideas, all of which can either be a short short story or just a short story.  That in itself comforts me, just because I know that I will have ideas to fall back on if I need to.  I need to start developing some of these very soon, though.  First complete story due in a week.  On my way home I realized that my paragraph stories that were due in class lacked a setting entirely.  Then again, so did everyone’s.  I think that was the point of them.  And then it hit me: When I have more than a paragraph to write in, I can really develop a character and the setting.  It was like an epiphany, even though I knew I needed it all along.  It made me excited to start writing.  And that’s why this class is good for me.  It’s put that spark back in me, but it’s pushing me to write well, to be focused while I write, and to really flesh out my ideas.  It’s exciting.

I posed the question on Facebook “Is it wrong for me to model a character on my Dad?” Honestly, I don’t think so.  But it’s not going to be my Dad.  Similar, perhaps.  But not him at all.  And that in and of itself shows a huge difference between how I used to write, how I have been writing so far this quarter, and how I want to write (and what I’m moving toward).  I’m in the habit of not using my imagination, of relying on my experiences for story fodder, of using friends as characters themselves with often not much more than a name change, if that.  Even in the exercises for class, unless we were forced to write something that I couldn’t base on an experience, I used either myself or a friend in a story, even though I knew I shouldn’t.  Why? It’s easy.  Then again, sometimes I would see how much I could change the story and still keep it interesting.  Also, I slightly subscribe to the idea that fact is fiction, at least in memory.  The way you remember something is most likely not how it happened exactly.  And in writing a story down, in describing details and situations, a writer will have to create and embellish to fill in gaps in info.  So my great ideas for stories now don’t necessarily come from real life, but they come at least from ideas or daydreams in my head, or even just random thoughts.  No true memories here, except for the craziness that my mind can create when left to it’s own devices.  There will be revisions on here as I get them written.

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