How does or does character factor into your writing?
Now, everyone who reads this knows I am a poet by trade but, for a long time, I didn’t want to be.
I made up poems and songs throughout my childhood but I wanted to somehow make writing something career driven. Having grown up with constant concerns about money, I was always trying to think of some way I could put two pennies together to make a quarter.
So why on earth would I want to write poetry?
I wanted to be a fiction writer or maybe a playwright. I wrote some plays for my stuffed animals when I was really young and then during my first creative writing class I tried really hard to write short stories. I just couldn’t do it. At the time, there were such thinly veiled autobiographies, that I laugh when I run across old handwritten copies.
For some reason, when I tried to write prose I ended up writing virtually non-fiction and not well. The words came across so flat. Even when I wrote about myself, I lacked character. Maybe the “story” I was telling was interesting (like the one I tried to fictionalize about “running away” when I was 15 – note the quotes cause I argue whether it was running away when i was told to get out, oh, that is a story for another day) but the character trying to live the story or to voice it just lacked something.
But, for some reason in the world of writing poetry I found characters. Maybe they were often really just me telling my stories but they were more believeable. And, after I got the majority of those stories about me out of my system actual characters started to emerge and I find I can write poems for a variety of characters that aren’t even close to being me. Or at least I think so.
But, I still can’t really write short stories. Not that I actually try anymore. Whenever I start to write short stories I find myself focusing too much on plot instead of developing the actual character and from what my fiction writing friends tell me – the best short stories are all about character and then the plot follows.
I think this whole issue of being plot driven was what was plaguing my work on this latest series of poems. I was trying to make the series have a specific narrative arc. I think I was trying, too early, to find out where it all was going instead of just letting the characters and therefore the story go.
I haven’t written anything new in that series in about a week and I have let it slip out of my mind so that when I go back to read the poems in the series as I type them up I will be looking for surprises and I’ll have a chance to enjoy the characters, stories and the language with fresh eyes.
So how do you approach character? I’d love to hear what you guys think, no matter what genre because even in non-fiction “characters” emerge.
Or are you just too tired to think.
Digby is. He is sooo tired
Even a Knight gets tired. Rest Sir Digby Chicken Ceasar