A quick way to get the story: let your character tell it

I found a new way (new for me, anyway) to get a quick take on a scene: I get in the character’s head, and then tell the story either to a trusted friend – as one might tell an anecdote – or to a highly paid psychiatrist.

Whoever it would take for me to just tell the story, one on one.

The scene which was driving me bananas – too many considerations of details, and what has to go in, and language, and everything it takes to do a scene in close third-person point of view – came out easily, in one piece.

Since the person I imagined telling it to is also someone I could imagine keeping the whole thing confidential, it was comfortable to tell all the relevant details, sometimes wandering a bit, but getting them all in – everything that affected ‘what happened.’

It was an end run around the ‘brain fog.’ And the Perfectionist. And the Editor.

The physical part – setting and timeline – since they were just ‘reality’ – came out as more of a minimalist version – “Just the facts, ma’m.”

I think that’s because I only told the details that were critical to understanding the story.

It came out easily, of a piece, without me thinking about it too much, with a prompt of “Tell me what happened.”

I had already done my preparation: read all my notes to myself, written down as many things that needed to be there as I could think, included all my structural terms, read the previous scene, and the previous scene in this pov (I have three characters who each get scenes on a rotating basis which depends on who is most affected by what happens).

So I was primed – but couldn’t seem to get down to choosing the words for the third-person viewpoint.

I think what helped is that I took away the importance of the writing: little of this will go, unaltered, in the published scene. I don’t have to satisfy a reader. I don’t have to worry about making the language go with the character, or the dialogue flow. I could take the character’s thoughts as given – from her pov, this was what happened.

I didn’t worry about foreshadowing, or answering questions, or leaving cliffhangers.

I’ve done this before, once, when stuck, and I now remember it worked to blow the critical mind’s objections out of the way for a while.

Here’s a sample:

They were kind, as one would be to a small child who just made a potty joke.
George rescued me – I don’t know how he does it, but he showed up when needed – and walked me back to the canopy.
Although there’s a flavor of ‘Here, take the leash and walk the dog,’ I don’t see what else they could do – they can’t have unescorted people wandering around the set.
I won’t say I’m not glad I came, but I wish I’d kept my mouth shut.

I think I’ll make it a regular part of the process.

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2 thoughts on “A quick way to get the story: let your character tell it

  1. Rachel6

    I like running through interrogations in my head, either some outsider asking about the MC or a formal sit-down for whatever reason. Same thought flow 🙂

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    1. ABE Post author

      I had the idea of telling the story to a friend or therapist – It would make sense to have that person be able to ask questions, too, wouldn’t it?

      I like it.

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      Reply

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