The other day I was on Twitter and came across a tweet from author Rayne Hall about how so many newbie writers begin their novels with their character looking out a window, thinking. Um…guilty as charged. Except, my character was outside, walking, looking, thinking. Not very exciting, is it? Which brings us to today’s topic taken from The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell.
Characters all alone should do more than just think.
When our characters go through the wringer, they need some time to process. It’s the whole Scene & Sequel, Proactive & Reactive scenes kind of thing. Of course, at the beginning of the book, what would our characters really need to process? Ha. But aren’t we sort of starting in media res, right? Maybe, maybe not.
So, granted, our characters need to think, process, but how do we do that without boring our readers to tears? We’ve got to add some action, make the character do something while he or she is thinking and, as Hall suggested, make it “an urgent task which makes undisturbed thinking difficult.”
Examples always help me better understand concepts. Unfortunately, I’m real bad at finding them, partly why I started Yo Ho. But I couldn’t ask you all for an example without finding one myself. So, without further ado, my example is taken from The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs. In the opening scene we have our main character, Hayden, thinking, staring at the sky and his distasteful surroundings, but Briggs gives him a hatchet and a large briar patch while we return to earlier thoughts that day and days gone by, setting the tone for the story and Hayden’s struggles with their move to the country and his mom’s death.
So, what say you? What do you think are some good examples of a character, alone, thinking, yet doing something?