Cracking Open Your Character’s Lives

In Memoir class, I often mention “cracking open” an incident or event. “Dig deeper,” I say. That’s where the gold is. Novel writers can crack open their character’s lives as well, deepening and sculpting a more memorable character for readers to sympathize with.
Writing Tip for Today: When you crack open a scene to get at the real story, it may be very painful, especially for memoirists who are their own protagonist. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Cracking it open means getting at the truth, not necessarily writing every gory detail.
  • You’ll face yourself in a way you may never have before. Be prepared to forgive yourself or your loved ones.
  • If a traumatic scene is one in which you or the character endured a long wait, the key is to give the reader a feeling of waiting without actually making the reader wait. Same holds true for scenes in which a character is bored. Give the feeling of boredom, but don’t make your reader bored.
  • Cracking it open may require several drafts to get at the truth.
  • Bleeding on the page takes courage. Yet when you “crack it open,” you’ll be likely to produce honest, authentic writing, which readers love.

Tomorrow! Look for The Bookshelf Muse blogger Becca writing about how she and her blogging partner Angela, came up with the Emotion Thesaurus. Don’t miss it!

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

4 comments on “Cracking Open Your Character’s Lives

  1. I love the idea of giving the illusion of boredom without boring readers. The longer I write and try to write well, the more I see that less is better, as long as what you use is carefully chosen.

  2. Great article!! I love the image of “cracking a scene open.” I try my best to do so in my own writing. I find that I have to “step into the scene” to get that magic going.

  3. The hardest thing about writing is getting your reader’s experience to match your perception. It’s that “continuous and vivid dream” John Gardner wrote about. Onward! ~Linda

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