One of the best tools a writer carries with them, I believe, is their memory. Not just memories of events from our past, but the little things. Like how your favorite piece of candy felt when you first placed it on your tongue or the time you dipped your toe into the frothy lip of the sea and it tickled. These small moments put bits of truth into your characters.
When I first started writing all I worried about was bringing my characters from one scene to the next—for one because I’m an impatient writer and two because I wanted to get to the action already (which probably just ties into number one). But besides impatience, I don’t think I really understood how to grasp the idea of memories, characters, and how to make real life out of words.
Over the past two mentor programs that the Nevada SCBWI put on, I’ve been extremely lucky to have worked with Ellen Hopkins and Susan Hart Lindquist—both have lovingly taught me how to weave life into words. It may sound cheesy, but it’s true and the only way I can explain how they taught me. Writing is an art, and during both mentor programs I felt I was sitting at a wheel with a teacher guiding my hands over each string helping me form a tapestry.
I learned how to carefully examine characters—dissect them if I must. Find emotions, whether they be from my past or not, find them. I’ve personally found it’s easier to do this if you don’t write your real life onto the page, in the end it makes it harder to zoom out from your work and a lot of time truth is stranger than fiction, if you are writing fiction. In my newest work, I’ve been using tiny bits of my life to help evoke emotions. Emotions aren’t just a string of adjectives, they are truly what they say and you want your reader to feel them—not feel like they are reading them. It’s important to pull them in—lure them without a string.
Another important trick I learned was AIR. It is simply Action + Internalization + Reaction = Good Writing! Seems simple enough, right? No, I was wrong and have become a much slower writer because this constantly echoes in the back of my mind. It’s worth it though and I’m glad I’ve learned how to slow down, take a breath, and not worry if the world will end if I don’t write my novel fast enough.
Life is precious, we should treat our words as so.