5.09.2009

STAYING ENGAGED FOREVER: Use what you know

What’s the thing you know the most about? Use it. You’re allowed to be clever and you’re allowed to play to your strengths.

What did you write about knowing about in the first chapter? Like me, bowling? Knot tying? How to saute onions? Knitting? Allow your character to be that expert. Create someone to counter her or him. Create a situation to enable this knowledge to come out, but always allow space to daydream and attach other images to it. Or combine it with something you’ve already begun.

BRESSON’S film PICKPOCKET (right) has so many mesmerizing scenes detailing the art of pickpocketting. It’s a ballet of constant precise and arcane movement, and it’s gorgeous to watch.

Let these things come out through the mouth or actions of character. Or maybe it’s through YOUR actions. Know a lot about drawing? Let your character be an artist. Show off. Know your characters exceptionally well? Let them out.

Entire subgenres of mystery novels that center on this idea. Solving mysteries is about attention to detail and these books allow their authors to focus on observational detail and all the products of their knowledge, obsessions and curiousity. A series of mysteries set in a bowling alley? Yes!

This book is not about starting as a blank slate. It’s about growing the items stored on that slate, allowing them to intermingle with your own impressions and fascinations, towards new ideas.

As an epileptic, my thoughts often veer towards seizures, attacks and my fragile little head. I finally decided to use this constant familiarity and I gave Ali, the character I co-create with Margo Dabaie fierce, crippling headaches. These strips were fun to write, despite their horrific origins. I was using feelings I had experienced deeply to add detail to a character in my store.

EXERCISE- USING WHAT YOU KNOW-

Imagine a situation or moment in which your character shows someone else this thing he/she knows well. What motivates your character? Is she bragging? Is it a life or death situation? Is he a big bore?

Create a scene using the techniques described in these postings. Build it forward, backward; attach other images and ideas to it to allow it to grow.

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