Monday, August 27, 2012

"Who are you?"

"Tell me," I say. "Who are you? What do you like? What do you hate? What's your favorite ice cream flavor? What's your biggest secret? Okay sorry, a little personal there. But seriously, what's your story? Where do you come from? What do you aspire to be?"

This past week, I've been rigorously working on a story I started last year as a school project for World Literature. As an Honors student, I had to write an allegory based off a position paper I wrote earlier in the semester. In my position paper, I explored the conflict of trust. What do you do if a friend asks you to keep a potentially life-threatening secret for them? Do you keep the secret and risk your friend's life, or do you break their trust and call for help––willing to accept the consequences? (You can read my position paper here.) I loved the assignment, and have been meaning to return to the story to make edits. My hope is to eventually look for publishing opportunities, but before I start looking for agents or contests, my story has a lot of revision to undergo.

In my revisions, I've focused heavily on character development. The reader's attachment and sensitivity to the two young protagonists in my story is crucial to keeping their interest, just like in many of the stories we all know and love. I think we can all somehow relate to Katniss Everdeen's constant self-doubt. Without this connection, we most likely wouldn't care about her survival in the Hunger Games, or her conflicting love interests. We care because we understand.

As I dive deeper into my characters, I am constantly asking the question, "Who are you?" I wish I could just sit down with my characters for a cup of coffee and chat. There's so much to discover. And this is why I love to write. It's like starting a new relationship. "What's your favorite subject in school? Do you have any cousins? Are you more of a cat or a dog person?" Question mark, question mark, question mark. By the time I finish a story, I feel like I have the responsibility as a writer to know my characters well enough that I could theoretically answer any question about them, even if it is irrelevant to their story. In the case of my allegory, is Charity a dog person or a cat person? What about Fe? Charity prefers to move at a slower pace...she likes cats. Fe...Fe can't answer the question. She loves all animals. And if I find myself unable to answer a question, it's time for another Panera meeting.

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