Around the Room to Within

A technique that helps brings an author inside a character’s head proceeds in a curious fashion: from outer to inner. The curiosity factor stems from where a writer usually starts a scene: from a chosen point of view. That is, from already inside the character’s head. So why would anyone consider going to another character’s thoughts? Won’t that disrupt the intimacy with the reader?

To explain, let’s examine how a scene is actually written. At the beginning, you don’t know exactly what will emerge from your pen. You know which characters will dominate the scene. You may have some notes sketching an intended plot advance, along with possible text pieces that you wrote previously, knowing they would fit somewhere in the book. But you still have to write out what happens in that scene.

Let’s assume that a young woman wants to ask permission from her father to go out with her best friend. She knows he thinks the friend is a bad influence. That is the first level of interior monologue. I know Dad is going to say no. How do I get him to yes, because I really want to go? You write out some dialogue, and sure enough, Daddy-o says no. The teenager does some plot-related thinking. When you read over the scene, you feel it’s pedestrian, something out of a Nickelodeon show. How do you get deeper?

You add qualifying factors. One of the best sources for them lies with the father. What happy time might she remember when he was tickled by the best friend? What about her made him smile? What deed did he praise her for? What concern does he have, such as being really smart in math but not applying herself? When you jot down some of these memories, you give your chosen character some ammunition in her argument.

You can go beyond that, using the dad foil. When does she know he is most receptive to her asking a favor? After a few drinks or a bowl of chocolate ice cream? She might also consider using citing her mother as an ally, as in mentioning something she did that always raises his hackles? The anger gets directed onto the mother, and the daughter looks like an angel because she totally supports everything her father says. 

In other words, by considering the supplementary character’s views on subjects that will be raised in the scene, you can discover how the lead character will manipulate or react. You’re still writing from inside her head. You just took a detour to find out nuances that would never occur to you from the inside out.

“A lie does not consist in the indirect position of words, but in the desire and intention, by false speaking, to deceive and injure your neighbour.”                    —Jonathan Swift

Copyright @ 2021 John Paine. All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2020 John Paine. All rights reserved.