Final Thoughts On Thoughts

As I said, the workings of a character's mind is the hardest part of all of this. It's the thing that you will have the least access to in the early drafts. Often, the physical reaction will be what emerges first. When it does, put it down, recognizing that there's more to it since the mind leads the body. Just keep moving, knowing more needs to be done next time around. On each successive draft, you'll get more and more of the character's mind, and eventually you'll have what you need. Once you do, consider getting rid of the physical response. Use it only if it's necessary. "Necessary" means it gives us something significant about the character we wouldn't get without it.

When you're having trouble trying to figure out what the character is feeling, try asking, "What does he think about all of this? What's in his mind?" What's in his mind is usually worries, fears, and hopes. What is he worried and afraid will happen? What does he hope will happen? Forgetting about emotions and focusing on revealing all of the character's thoughts will uncover his feelings.

The mind is dramatic and wild and exciting, but it's also confusing and contradictory, so don't be surprised if it's where your writing is the most clumsy and obvious. That's fine. Like everything else in writing, it takes practice. The main thing is that you know what to work on.


Remember the scene with Larry and my wife that I used in chapter 3 to demonstrate the story form? There were no thoughts included at all. We didn't know what I (the husband) was thinking. I'm going to give you that scene again so you can practice putting in the thoughts. Whatever you imagine the husband's reactions would be is fine.

Start with the husband watching his wife kiss his best friend in the kitchen. Put in what you imagine he would be thinking. Put in his worries, fears, and hopes at every possible opportunity. If you can't come up with exact thoughts, make a list of the kinds of thoughts that he could be having, and come back and make them more specific later. Remember, this is the hardest part of all. You may only get little pieces of it each time through. That's fine. Also, if it's too difficult, let it go for now. You can come back and do it at a later date if you get the urge.

Start with the husband's reactions the moment he sees the kiss, then his thoughts as he goes to the door and enters the kitchen. Put in anything and everything he could be thinking throughout the scene. You can cut back later. Here's the scene:

"Hi, guys," I say happily as I come in. "Here're the smokes."

They thank me, and both light up. Larry pours himself some Scotch.

"How'd it go while I was gone?" I say, flopping into a kitchen chair.

"Fine," my wife says.

"How about you, Lar? Enjoy yourself in my absence?"

He glances at my wife quickly. "I did," he says.

"Good. I was worried you might get lonely. But, when I saw you through the window, I could see you didn't need me to entertain you."

"Well," Larry says. "We both missed you, and we're glad you're back."

"That's right, honey," my wife says. "It's not the same without you."

"Of course not," I say. "Say, hand me the butcher knife, darling."

"Butcher knife, what for?"

"No reason. I just feel like holding it."

"Don't be silly," she says.

"No, really. Indulge me."

"Will you stop?" she says.

"Stop what? You don't trust me with a knife? What is this: no sharp objects for the lunatic?"

"Very funny," she says.

Larry stares at me, smiling weakly.

"Afraid I'll hurt myself-slit my wrists-or my throat? What do you think, Lar? Can I be trusted with a knife in my own kitchen with my best friend and my loyal wife?"

"Of course you can," Larry says flatly, then downs his Scotch.

"Damn right. Hear that, angel? Larry trusts me. He trusts you. We all trust each other. So pass me the knife, sweets."

The above is a chapter-subject exercise (applying the craft presented in the chapter). But we still have our ongoing short exercises and the full-story exercise to work from. If you're into the ongoing story, work on that. If you want to do one of the short exercises (full-scene or three-word), do that. Also, you may be into something of your own. Work on whatever attracts you. The main thing is to write. However, I realize that you may have no time to write and are only doing the 5 minutes a day. If that's where you're at, do your 5 minutes. The 5-minute method is described in chapter 12. It can be used to work on any of these exercises.

First are the scene exercises:

• Hiring someone or trying to get hired.

• Firing someone or trying not to get fired.

Here are the three-word combinations:

• Gorilla, toupee, extraterrestrial.

If you want to work from the settings and characters, use those from the previous chapters.


A quick reminder. Go over what you wrote last time and check it for want, obstacle, action as laid out in the last chapter.

The next part of the infidelity story is the actual confrontation through action that the injured lover takes. She or he can confront the cheating party directly or can be trying to get the goods on him or her

If by spying, hiring a detective, getting friends involved-anything you can dream up that you want to use.

Remember that every scene is a little story (want + obstacle + action) in which the character is trying to make something happen, get information, etc. Each scene has a scene resolution but not a final resolution. In the scene resolution, things are still worse than they were at the beginning. They must be. If they're not, the story is standing still. The tension and drama rise from scene to scene and chapter to chapter. Things are worse at the end of every scene and every chapter until the story ends (final resolution), when they get better or end in disaster. In Romeo and Juliet, it's one continual downhill slide. If a character gets his hopes up early on, it's only to have them dashed in the next encounter. Each scene and chapter ends in the mind of the character, who is stewing over his plight and trying to figure out what it means and what to do next. We end in the character's mind, so we know where we're at, where the character (and we) have moved to.

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