Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Things I Wish That I Had Told You

Today I saw you sitting in your van while a man stood on the outside screaming obscenities at you. When I stopped to help you told me you were fine and he was your husband and you thanked me but said you didn't want me to call the police when I offered.

I knew you weren't fine. Your eyes, and your mouth, and your entire face told me something different from what your tongue said.

I told you to drive away, but I realized later that you probably couldn't because the repercussions later might be worse.

So I drove away, and I went to the police.

Here's what I wish I could have done and said.

I wish that I could have got out of my car and opened your door and held you.
I wish that I could have convinced you to drive to my house where you would have been safe.
I wish that I could have kicked his butt all the way down the street and through the park and into the lake.

I wish that I had told you

  • that you are beautiful and you deserved better than what he was giving you.
  • that even though you love him and that he is probably your whole world, he doesn`t love you,     because if he did, he wouldn`t treat you that way.
  • that all of the nasty things he calls you, is not about you. It's about him. If he calls you stupid, it's because he knows that he is stupid and that you're not and that drives him crazy, so he tells you that so you will feel worse than he does. If he calls you ugly, it's because he knows you have more beauty than he can hope for. If he puts down your dreams, your ideas, your desires, it's because he thinks so small and he is afraid that you will become greater than he is.
  • that just because he doesn't love you, does not mean that you are not loveable. It means that he is not capable of loving someone.
  • that being alone is not terrible. It is better than being with someone who is your enemy.
  • that being with this guy means that you will never find someone who will love you. 
  • that even though you may never find someone else, you can still love yourself.
  • that staying with him means that you will start to hate yourself, hate who you've become, hate the fact that you let your dreams die.
  • that he may apologize later, and you may make up, but it will only happen again, and again, and again.
  • that there are other women out there who understand exactly where you're at because they've been there too.
  • that you may not see yourself as an abused woman, because that happens to other women, not you, but you are. And that it doesn't always have to be that way.
  • that you are abused not because you are weak, or stupid, but because someone has taken advantage of all the good things in you. Your ability to love unconditionally, to forgive, to see the good in people, to see the potential in others, to sacrifice, to be unselfish.
  • that the most unselfish thing you can do for others, is to take care of yourself first
  • that just because he's not hitting you, does not mean he is not hurting you. Words destroy too.
  • that if you have children, you have a responsibility to them to not raise them to be like him, or to be with someone like him and the only way to do that, is to remove the bad example.
  • that he has issues that are too big for you to solve, and even if you could, you are too close to the situation because you have become his trigger.
  • that he does not take responsibility for his behavior. Did you notice when he turned on me for trying to help you and called me nasty names? They were the names that he should have directed at himself.
  • that you deserve better and only you can claim it

You haunt me now, because I couldn't do more. Because I didn't know what to do at the time. I pray that you are safe and that soon you will realize, that life is too short for crap like this.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Left to Write: The Information Dump 2

Yes, this is part two. I`m still finding information dumps and I want to stop it. Please, please stop it all you otherwise talented writers. I am on a crusade to stop it. So to read part one you can go here. "Left to Write: The Information Dump"

Now I know you all love your characters and when you love someone you want to talk about them. You want to tell everyone. After all you spent time creating their backgrounds and giving them quirks and coming up with reasons why they have quirks and why they're with the person they're with and why they hate bologna sandwiches (it really is traumatic) and how they landed their job and their first boyfriend in the sixth grade.

It's great you have that information. It's fantastic. Keep it to yourself.

Well, actually keep it to yourself unless it's absolutely necessary for your story.

Think of it this way, when you meet someone for the first time, do you want to know absolutely everything about them right then and there? In fact if you met someone who told you everything right away you would probably get creeped out and not want to have much more to do with that person. Believe me, it's happened to me, and I'm actually interested in people, but I don't need to know all about your foot bunion, your bad relationship with your son, your idiot of an ex-husband, and how you won your cheerleading trophy. Or actually, I don't want to know all that as soon as I meet you.

And when I meet a couple, the story of their meeting can honestly wait until I've actually known the couple better.

So why do authors feel they have to tell the entire life story of their characters in the first chapter? Or the second? Or at all if it has nothing to do with the story they're telling?

I bet there are lots of couples that you spend time with and you don't know their history. You just accept the fact that they're together.

In order for people to care about these things, they have to have a chance to care about your characters. That takes some time.

If you feel it's important to the story, then by all means tell it, but don't rush it. Wait for the question to form in your readers mind. Don't answer questions that haven't been asked yet.

And it's okay to let your reader wonder about things for awhile.

Do you know who does this well? Watch Lost or the Gilmore Girls. Yes, I know Stephen King would be horrified to hear of a writer tell another writer to watch TV, but TV is written by writers. Either of these shows illustrate how to do back story really well. (While watching Gilmore Girls take notes on dialogue too.)

Here's an exercise for you. Make a copy of your work in progress. (Don't worry I'm not going to tell you to amputate the original). Now get rid of all the back story. All of it. Put it aside for a couple of weeks.

When you go back to it read it over. Did you need the back story? How much of it do you need? If you need it, do you need it in the place you put it? Can it wait a little longer until your reader has a chance to care about it and has questions?

Now I'm not saying you can't have back story in the first chapter. But is it there because it's essential to setting up the story, or is it there because you just have to tell your reader all about your beloved character?

And when you do tell it to us, please don't tell everything at once. Give it in bits and pieces. Create new questions. Give your reader a reason to keep reading.