Like Mary Ann, I've kept journals and diaries since I was a girl. However, it wasn't until graduate school that I stumbled on the idea of keeping a journal from a character's point of view. While working on the first draft of my novel, Rosa, Sola, I was also reading Finding Your Writer's Voice by Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall. I decided to try completing the writing exercises in the book from Rosa's point of view. I hoped the process would help me find Rosa's voice, and it did.
Later, when I decided the novel would work better with a third-person-limited viewpoint, "Rosa's journal" became an important tool for keeping close to my character. Whenever the writing became distant, I would take out the journal and turn to a fresh page. At the top, I would write a question for Rosa. Here are a few examples:
- Rosa, how did you feel the first time you saw AnnaMaria's baby brother?
- Rosa, do you believe your father loves you?
- Rosa, what do you really want?
I learned a great deal about Rosa via her journal. To my surprise, I was also able to use it to solve plot problems. For example, when I was stuck in a scene, I'd turn to the journal and ask Rosa, "What happened next?" To my amazement, she answered!
I was in the midst of revising the novel when I was reading another craft book: Judy Reeves' A Writer's Book of Days, which includes, among other things, a writing prompt for every day of the year. One of the prompts was: "She doesn't know . . . " At the time, I was having problems with the character of Rosa's father. So I decided to use the journal to let Rosa's father respond to the prompt. That's when I discovered that Rosa didn't know the motives behind her father's behavior. She also didn't know that, despite his actions, he really did love her. The insights from that journal entry helped me make him a more rounded, and more sympathetic, character.
Create a journal where your characters can have their say.
- I prefer using a paper journal that I write in with a pen. Something about physically pushing the pen across the page allows me to connect with my characters in a different way than typing on a keyboard.
- The journal doesn't have to be expensive. It can be a simple spiral notebook or composition book. (These are on sale now for back-to-school!)
- I also like personalizing the journal's cover. I typically paste a photograph that represents something important to the character, or that is an image of the character herself.
- Use the journal to ask your character questions: What are her likes/dislikes? What is his biggest problem or fear? What does she REALLY want? and/or
- Let your characters respond to writing prompts from their points of view. You can do this for both your main character and important secondary characters. (See the Blogosphere Buzz below for more on finding writing prompts.)
- This week, I answered some questions about dealing with critique group jitters on my good friend Michelle Sussman's blog, Reading & Writing by Candlelight. Michelle will also be giving away a copy of Becky Levine's The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide this week, so be sure to enter for a chance to win by Tuesday, Aug. 17. And if you missed Esther's review of the book, you can still read it here.
- I also recently shared an inspiring quote on "Show and Tell Me," an online zine run by author Amy Timberlake. Check out the site to see fun quotes, photos, and artwork posted by children's authors and illustrators.
- Thanks to Sarah at the Slushbusters blog, I found out that the 2011 edition of the Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market, which contains my article on group blogging, is now available. I have yet to get my hands on a copy, though. :-)
- For the month of August, award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson is again encouraging her blog readers to "Write Fifteen Minutes a Day" (WFMAD). To help, she's providing daily writing prompts. Read her first post explaining WFMAD here.
- Looking for more writing prompts? See the Writer's Digest blog Promptly.
- This week, the Tales from the Rushmore Kid blog features an interview with former editor Harold Underdown in which he shares tips for both published and unpublished writers regarding agents and promotion.