I came across a poem lately that can mean a lot of things to many people. They are beautiful words about accepting the growth process of things in life, including ourselves. But I also hear something in this poem about the writing process.
It speaks to me about the evolution of a story, about how we may be frustrated along the way but to trust that there is a story somewhere developing to its full potential. All writers get frustrated with the growing pains of a story but it’s liberating to think of the process in a less hostile way, that everything is as it should be, growing into itself. I hope you find something inspiring in this poem, whether it’s for your writing or some other area of your life.
A Seed Thought by W. Timothy Gallwey
When we plant a seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as ‘rootless and stemless’
We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed.
When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear.
We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development.
The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies.
Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly alright as it is.
How much of a character’s backstory should a writer know? I’m not talking about the main character whose history, even though not always a necessary part of the story, is something you would have in your mind. I mean the secondary characters.
I’m in the process of re-writing a large portion of a novel and found myself drawn to a secondary character whose role in the story is key but limited. But then I got wondering about her, about her relationship with her dad (who is also a small character in the book). Who raised her? When did she first decide to turn her back on her legacy? I wonder if this is how it starts when authors write short stories about characters in their novels because I can totally see a short story in the works for Gabrielle.
But what I found when I resumed writing her scenes is that the whole backstory question added a component to her that I had been missing. She took on new life. All the questions about her that I’d figured out in my mind, even though what I reveal to the reader is only ten percent of what I know about her, filled her out and made her real.
I do character profiles, internal and external, for the main characters in my stories. There are lots of details about these people that you may never need but when it comes time for them to make a decision, even if it’s as simple as what they order in a restaurant, it helps to know them inside out.
But I get lazy when it comes to the other guys, the minor characters. My light bulb moment may have changed that. Even if it’s not a full blown character profile, I think I will be spending some time with all the faces in my book to look into their backstory, peel away their layers, so that they are real each time they hit the page.
It’s a good thing that we don’t have to choose. We can love them both. Or can we?
Many books are made into movies. People love it, seeing their favourite characters take life, watching the story that played out in their head take shape on the screen. For some who didn’t read the book, they can pretend they did. For authors, it seems like the ultimate to have their book made into TV or a movie.
Am I the only one who won’t watch a movie if I’ve read the book? Possibly.
Okay, so I’ve broken my own rule a few times, only to reaffirm my reasons never to do it again. The movie can never capture the intricacy of the characters. It won’t be able to present the whole plot in the time limit of a feature length film. And worst of all, after seeing the film, my own image of the characters and story, the one that played out as the words took shape in my mind, were replaced forever by the images of the movie. It’s strange that it happens but it does and it bothers me.
Once again I am considering this question: Do I See the Movie? I have just finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (yes I know I’m the last person to read it) and the movie is out getting great reviews. I haven’t seen the original 2009 films but now that I’ve read the book, I’m tempted to see the David Fincher version. One, I’m a fan of Trent Reznor and I love the soundtrack. Two, Daniel Craig, enough said. Three, I didn’t love the book (shocker) and so how disappointed could I be?
So here I go, about to break my rule again. Maybe this time will be different.