Monday, February 23, 2015

Looking Back at Lions in Winter Again: Edward Kelsey Moore & Character

A couple weeks ago, Nathan took us back to Lions in Winter, filling us in on Stephen Graham Jones’s lecture on “info dumping” and hook lines. A second fiction writer, Edward Kelsey Moore, gave a lecture as wellAfter discussing some of his work in class and even hearing him read one of his stories online, I was eager to sit down, shut up, and soak in what he had to say about creating characters.

Moore began by talking about how well you should know your characters. But how do you do that? Practice. Moore had us write, starting with a simple scene of a single character doing the mundane. As usual, I wrote about myself, using another name.

He must have known I’d do this, because his next prompt suggested that we get out of ourselves by giving the character some quality, possession, or characteristic that would make this character different. This makes enough sense. To get into one head, we need to get out of another.

What’s next? Remove yourself even further. His next prompt asked us to think about what would naturally come next--and just ignore it. If your character is putting away groceries, and the next step would be to start cooking dinner, don’t let her cook dinner. This boring step could lead to more unimportant events, leaving you and readers with filler that’s not worth reading.

Make the character forget something at the store. Imagine that the cooking appliances won't turn on. Your character might see a dolphin jumping out of the backyard swimming pool and forget about dinner. Whatever it is, change the pace.

Moore’s lecture helped me understand some things. One is that I love the unexpected. Unfortunately, another realization is that I don’t get to read a lot of creative writing in the Writing Center. Yes, I love reading academic papers, personal statements, and resumes. But I’d also love to read some Moore-inspired, unexpected creativity too.  

So if you are taking a creative writing class, surprise us by bringing that work to the Writing Center!

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