Thursday, September 16, 2010

How Might You Challenge Yourself as a Writer?


by Robert W. Walker

There are indeed many challenges a writer faces from beating back inertia to becoming redundant on the page to using the wrong tack on approach to opening the story or novel in the wrong place and on and on and on. Building character is a challenge, but we must have in our lead role, our star character fully-realized; we are challenged to live with him or her for a long time, but we take that challenge to make this character special as the more we know him or her, the more easily manipulated along a storyline. We are challenged too by plot, and many of us find this far harder to come to terms with than character, yet a fully realized character can suggest or imply a plot.

I challenge myself with each book I write. I challenge myself by doing a setting that is for me exotic—that is out of my safety zone as I may never have been there.

I challenge myself by creating a character at opposite ends of the spectrum than myself – say a female Medical examiner and FBI agent or an 1893 Inspector in Chicago or a pair of interns on the Titanic.

I challenge myself often with a storyline that is meant to tease the reader into thinking one thing but second guessing himself at the same time.

Most recently, I have challenged myself to set up a novel with two separate storylines running simultaneously in two different time “zones” – one in 1912, the night Titanic went down, and the other one hundred years later with divers capable of working two and a half miles below the surface and swimming into and through Titanic’s interiors in 2012. This was indeed a huge challenge but oddly enough, I based my structure and desire on none other than the film and book Fried Green Tomatoes. It may sound at odds but I wanted to duplicate my own feelings coming away from that story – that I at once wanted to be in the past story and the present story each time I was inside the other story than the one I wanted to be in; in other words, each storyline was compelling. So my challenge to myself was to make each storyline so compelling as to make the reader want to return to BOTH whenever he or she was in past (wanting to get back to present), and in present (wanting to get back to past).

So what sorts of challenges do you set for yourself as a writer? Would love to hear about them here. I know if you write, you face umpteen challenges but at times one might have been particularly prickly and you might be so proud that you met it and overcame it well. So let’s hear about that!

Rob Walker


Unknown said...

Writing from the POV of the opposite sex isn't a challenge for me anymore. My main characters are almost always male.

I did challenge myself with POV and tense though, in one story. I switched from 1st person present tense to third person past tense. That was tough, but it worked, and people loved the story.

Now I'm writing a series in first person, which hasn't been my favorite, but it's right for the series. One of my beta readers commented that I was "too much in his head," which was an interesting comment, considering. I just sent it back to her with fixes, and I hope I addressed it. So much to learn!

Morgan Mandel said...

Just getting a book finished these days is challenge enough, but I do challenge myself by writing in different genres.

Also, right now I've started a book which is autobiographical in nature.

Morgan Mandel

Deb Larson said...

I've been asked to write a skit for a charitble organization's harvest celebration. I agreed and am now doing research about the organization's grassroot beginning. It's fun but challenging.

Rob Walker said...

All of you sound to me as if you routinely challenge yourselves, which is what I was talking about in the post. Playing it safe had never been an option for me. Goes with the territory so far as I can tell...if you craft a serial killer, or a sicko child molester, or a racists, these are character challenges I have dealt with.

Indian T.v Serials said...

Lynne used to worry she had a serious problem with daydreaming, then she discovered she was supposed to write the stories in her head. A late bloomer, Lynne came to fiction writing after her children were nearly grown. Now she battles the empty nest by writing stories which always include a romance, sometimes medicine, a dose of mirth, or both, but always stories from her heart. She is a Southern California native, married for almost thirty years, has two adult children she is super proud of, is a dog lover, cat admirer, a power walker, and fellow traveler on this wild road called life!