Watching an interview with Brad Pitt on Inside The Actor’s Studio, an acting student asked, “What are your processes and how have they changed?”
Pitt wisely answered, “My processes is always changing.” He talked about the journey of discovery, of finding truth.
As an actor, or in our case, writer, grows and changes, they should be able to hone the process of finding a the heart of a character, of discovering the truth.
Pitt went on to say, “Find a moment of truth and the character will come.”
This is a profound truth for all of us who deal in character. Find the truth of your character and let it breathe, let it come.
Let it shine on the page.
We talk a lot about processes and tools here at My Book Therapy, but we also talk about what I call, “the ping.”
That’s the emotional or even spiritual sense you get when you’ve hit upon the truth of the story. Of the character’s journey.
When I write, I put all the building blocks in place the best I can. Character wound, lie and fear, contrasted with the secret desire/true identity.
I figure out the black moment, the epiphany, and what the character can do in the end she can’t do in the beginning.
But it’s in the writing, in the quiet of my mind and the push-pull of the character developing on the page when the truth of the story is birthed.
Sometimes I sit with my eyes closed and just type. I see the character, I see the scene and I recored what I see.
I let the planning and processing fall away. Pitt speaks to that during the interview, too. “If you plan the scene, you’ll miss it.” My translation of what he said. But you get what I mean. Over planning can ruin the core heart of a scene or story.
In my book coming out in May 2013, the heroine Susanna was a planner. As I read through the story before submitting it to my editor, I was bombarded by scenes and dialog centered on “Susanna The Planner.”
There was no subtlety to it. Just blah, spit out on the page.
I had to back up and let the “planner” in Susanna come out in other way. In her inability to change, in her rootedness in her home town, in her hesitation about life.
Even after the clean up, my editor wrote in her substantive letter to me, “we get that Susanna is a planner.” Ha!
I over thought it. I didn’t let the truth come out.
It’s been my experience after 17 novels, that my processing will some how collide with my pinging if I just relax and let it come. Let truth arise.
Research, plan, process, dream, write an outline, do a character study, go through whatever process works for you.
But at the end, all those processes must reduce all the information down into a truth that is displayed and evident in your character and story.
If you’re stuck, take time to just write. Let the words flow regardless of where you are in the story process.
Call someone and brainstorm. Or just talk out your story with anyone willing to listen. Sometimes they will respond with a small tidbit that unlocks truth to you.
Pray. Ask the Lord for His heart about your characters.
Play music or if you play an instrument, do that. Sometimes I sit down at the piano and sing about my characters.
Go to the gym. If I’m really struggling, the process of working my body instead of my brain causes clear ideas to surface. In my book Love Starts with Elle there’s a really romantic scene with Elle and Heath dancing on the back porch to a Gladys Knight and the Pips song. And I got the idea in spin class.
Read. Diving into other’s story often unlocks your own creativity and underlying truths.
Above all, work it. While finding truth can’t be over processed, it still must be mined. Like fine gold. Like rare gems.
Best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She excels in seeing the deeper layers of a story. With a love for teaching and mentoring, Rachel comes alongside writers to help them craft their novel. A worship leader, board member of ACFW and popular writing teacher, Rachel is the author of over 15 novels. She lives in Florida with her husband and her dog, Lola. Contact her at: Rachel@mybooktherapy.com.
Go forth and write!