Consider yourself blessed! I’m about to give you a rare sight: a direct look into a writer’s mind as he creates.
This week, I picked up an on-again-off-again project, “Locke Hart.” At this particular point in the story, the main character, Locke, is troubled by something, and his friend Sam sees it on his face.
Now comes her dialogue. She must inquire as to why he looks so perturbed without sounding as pretentious as this sentence does. The ever-easy, “What’s wrong?” comes to mind, but no, that’s just not Sam.
Sam is a theatrical, irreverent, worldly girl (who is also, paradoxically, a Christian). She never goes simple when she can go over the top. When she didn’t like her brussels sprouts, she set them on fire. Plus, this scene is a sort of introduction to her character. I can’t start out with such a vanilla line as “What’s wrong?”.
Okay, what to say, then? What’s an over-the-top way of asking what’s wrong with somebody? “What’s your major malfunction?” Nah, too mean. “What’s up your bum?” Too gauche, even for Sam.
Let’s think about this from Sam’s point of view. All she has to go on is his face–his troubled look tells her something’s up. Okay, so maybe she speaks directly concerning his face. So, what does Locke look like to her? His jaw is set, brow knit, unease is written all over him.
“What’s with the constipation face?”
As a bonus, Locke then twists his features in confusion, to which Sam replies, “Ew, that makes it worse.”
When I finally had the line that sounded perfect for her particular character, I smiled at the word “Sam” on the screen and said, “I missed you.”
To a writer, characters are not just names on a page. They’re real people who inhabit a world behind the screen that goes on even when you’re not looking at it. A writer is more of a recorder than a creator in some aspects.
So, when a writer sits down to write about characters he hasn’t seen for days, weeks, or perhaps years, it’s not a continuation of a dusty tome.
It’s a reunion.