December 5, 2012

Writing Club Wednesday: Get Out

Confession: I'm a hermit. I don't like crowds. I hate talking on the phone. I'd be perfectly happy living alone in a shack somewhere. No joke.

The problem is I want to be a writer. Not just any writer. A good writer. I want to write stories for teens. And those books don't come about from hiding in a shack. They come from engaging with the world around me.

Jenny's Dream Home

Writing itself is a solitary pursuit, unless you're dictating. When I sit down to write, it's just me and my laptop getting the story out. But the stories themselves have to come from somewhere. They come from places I visit, snippets of conversations I overhear, looks on the faces around me. When I give in to my hermit tendencies, I lose my stories.

I admit it's a challenge for me to get out into the world. With two kids and a husband, my social skills are all tapped out by the time we eat lunch. I write speculative fiction so it's easy to tell myself it's all made up anyway. No need for authenticity if none of it is real. Right?

Eek! People! They're EVERYWHERE!

Sorry, self, but you're wrong. When I hide out, my characters become endless variations of me. I lose the diversity and excitement of a living, breathing, changing world. When I seek out new experiences, my writing takes on new vitality and complexity. When I people watch, endless backstories spin out before me. Single snapshots in my mind become settings and situations for my characters to inhabit.

I still need quiet and solitude to process the things I've gleaned from my time out in the world. That's where the actual writing comes in. But I challenge you to get out of your office chair or couch or wherever you write and seek out new experiences. Listen in on the conversations around you at restaurants. Create backstories for the people in line at the grocery story based on their purchases. Pick out cars for your characters when you're strolling through parking lots. 

Hunting for inspiration

In college, a professor once told me that to be a great journalist, you need to study history. In other words, to understand current events, you need to understand the past. Writing fiction is much the same way: in order to make up stories, you need to be connected to reality. Use your eyes, ears, nose to find the details of life that bring your stories beyond the page. I promise it will improve your writing.

There is a whole world out there full of inspiration, but you need to go find it. 

Go get it!

Whew. Back to my happy place. No people at all.


Eliza Tilton said...

does grocery shopping count as getting out? : )

Jenny Kaczorowski said...

Of course it does! There are the best characters at grocery stores: the lady with a cart full of tins of cat food and a single bottle of wine. The youngish guy with a list staring at the spices. The kids hanging out in the candy aisle without parental supervision. All kinds of stories just waiting to be told!

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way. To make matters worse, reading and writing have always been solitary affairs for me. I'm like an anti-book club member. When I'm done reading a book, I don't want to talk about it. I want to reflect privately.

I'm currently reading JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy, and one of the things I like about it is that every character - even the smallest - acts like a real person, not like a character in a book. I have to wonder if she forces herself out of the house (or castle, whatever she's living in these days) to watch people, too.

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