July 13, 2004

Working Out

While I really want to start exercising with regularity again, this post isn't about free weights or cardiovascular feats. It's about exercising my brain.

The BN workbook is proving to be a challenge. The simplist questions have the power to freeze me in my tracks. Of course, I try to tell myself it's because the characters and the story I'm using are new. Underdeveloped. In truth, I'm confident this is part of the problem. But it's not all of it.

I tend to write characters I don't know very well. At least, I don't know them very well through the first dozen attempts at telling their story. Eventually a character of substance emerges but it's often after I've wasted weeks, if not months, getting to know them. Doing the BN exercises is forcing me to look beyond the surface of my characters.

For instance, take Aislinn, the heroine of a future WIP. Surface information: I know she's pretty but not beautiful. Intelligent. Observant. And that she's going to fall madly in love with Kade.

In the past this has been enough information for me to at least begin her story. Forget plot right now--that's another topic for a different day. I'd write a chapter or two, realize I don't enough about her or the hero, and trash what I've written. This would continue for weeks, each week culminating in a higher chapter count before being trashed.

Answering the BN questions has already revealed some significant aspects of Aislinn's personality. I now know how a stranger would view her and what the opposite (less known) trait would be. I know at least three inner conflicts she will have to face during the course of the book. I've also managed to identify a couple of out-of-character aspects I should incorporate into the novel to move her beyond an ordinary character.

And I've only completed Exercises 1-4. So while I curse Donald Maass for making me think--a true work out if there is one--I also praise him for helping me break out of a habit that needed kicking.