Sometimes, the timing is right.

“…character is determined not only by what one writes about the character, but by how other characters react and respond to them.” Jaqueline Carey

I read this quote a few days back quite by accident. I was looking for something else on line, and just skimmed over this sentence, thinking, hmm, true, but I already knew that.

That night, when I sat down to write I looked at where I had left off at my previous writing session. I had tried to sit down and write a few times that day when I saw I had a few spare minutes (yes, sometimes I write for just a few minutes at a time – with little ones around I take what I can get 🙂 ), but I had not been able to move past this line I wrote when a character was reminiscing out loud:

“She loved her, you see. Everyone who knew her did.”

Something was wrong with this sentence, but I didn’t know what. I was stuck, and didn’t know why.

Then it hit me. “…character is determined not only by what one writes about the character, but by how other characters react and respond to them.”
What I wrote was simply not true. Isabella was not lovable, she was a lost soul, in great need of help.
The people around thought she needed to be controlled, and that she was not capable of tending to herself – that is not love when speaking of a fully grown woman.

I changed my words: “She cared for her you see – she knew she needed help. Most who knew Isabella wanted to help her. Except for that doctor. And my Ma, she blamed him most of all.”

Now the story makes sense.

Now I can write.

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19 thoughts on “Sometimes, the timing is right.

  1. I always enjoy the feeling when you know something isn’t working and then discover how to make it work… It’s about honing our skills, smoothing out the sentences to our satisfaction..

    • The problem I tend to have Laura, is reaching my own personal satisfaction. It is very difficult for me to decided something is done. But, yes, it certainly does feel good when something fits just right 🙂

  2. Great post! I love this. This is a really helpful idea, especially in the work I’m doing right now in tightening my characters’ motivations for their actions. I’m finding so many subplots (and strengthening the main plot) by just paying attention to how my characters would react to themselves and each other. You put into words what I’ve had a vague concept of for a little while, and I really enjoyed this. I’m so glad it affected your writing so much!

    • Hi Patti, and thanks!
      I just read this literary quote this morning by Henry James: What is character but determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character?
      It is wonderful when the universe conspires in a positive way 🙂

  3. Totally true quote, when you think about it, writers all have a plan and that makes it all the better, but to really feel the chracter it is the others characters that make it.

  4. Let me be more clear–I love when I’m writing and I have a moment like this–a moment where the clouds part and Jupiter aligns with Mars and some little something becomes clear.

  5. It’s great when you find something helpful that you weren’t even looking for. Just goes to show that you should always have your eyes and mind open so that you don’t miss out something that might help or inspire you in the future.

  6. immortaldiva says:

    Hi, Jennifer.
    You said to come check out your blogs. Loved reading all of them. But this one definitely jumped out at me. This is so very true. It’s not how we see them, but how the characters see them. Through their reactions and responses, we begin to “feel” a character from more than just one angle. They become multi-dimensional. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

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