All it takes is one well-thought out question to set your mind running a different path than the one that your character was walking. It’s one of the most valuable things about having test readers and sharing work- the questions that lead you to those eureka moments about your characters. Going through the feedback from one of my peer critique partner’s, I came across a question she asked of one of my character’s actions. She wondered if, because of what my character knew, he behave the way he was behaving. I was puzzled by the question, because he needed to do what he was doing, but then realized that because he knows what he does, fuels WHY he is gruff the way he is. It’s because he’s protective, not just perpetually grumpy (well, mostly anyway.) And it was a VERY cool realization to have. It led me to name a character motivation I didn’t even realize I was working around. Knowing it now helps me to go back and plant more to illustrate that motivation more effectively.
I struggle with how best to organize feedback. With SB, I’ve been switching between the two documents from the two reader’s who’ve had eyes on the entire story, and then the Scrivener document where my manuscript lives. Though it feels clunky and, while I’m sure there’s a better way, it’s working for now. At least, it’s what I’ve found works best for an entire manuscript worth of feedback in electronic format. When I bring a chapter or section of a story to peer critique, everyone gets a paper copy and we all make notes on it. We go over the feedback during our meeting, and then take the copies home with us. When I get feedback that way, I will either go through all of the feedback with the draft and make any revisions immediately, or I will gather all of the questions, comments, and insights into a bullet list to contemplate and work with at a different time.
A fun thing I played with this week, one of my favorite ways to get myself going when I stall in writing, is make word lists. It’s a thing I remember doing as a teenager, although back then I would do the exercise with a cheap paperback Thesaurus that provided a limited amount of words. Now, I use a thesaurus online where I can immerse myself in a waterfall of words. I would do this exercise when I found myself trying to think of a better word for a poem. If the idea of the word were ‘run’, I’d start by looking that word up in the Thesaurus. I’d chase words from there, where run would lead me to sprint, then sprint might lead me to stalk, then to pursue and shadow and eventually fall upon the true essence of the word or thought I was looking for. This exercise would lead me to a sentence that might look something like, “the shadows of my fears, no matter how much energy I put into the sprint, would match my every pace, stalking me along every turn of the trail.” Needs work, but a pretty solid example none the less.