Good morning! It’s time for our Thursday Quick-Write, and today’s guest author wrote one of my favorite books of the year – Dread Nation.
Justina Ireland is also the author of the teen novels Vengeance Bound and Promise of Shadows. She enjoys dark chocolate and dark humor and is not too proud to admit that she’s still afraid of the dark. She lives with her husband, kid, and dog in Pennsylvania. You can visit her online at www.justinaireland.com.
When I think of writing, I usually think primarily in the fundamental building blocks of story: setting, character, and plot. For me, this is the Holy Trinity, and manipulating any single one of these elements will impact the other two. Is your character a plucky girl from 1880s Wisconsin? That’s going to make her a lot different than a plucky girl from 1980s Wisconsin. And moving either of these girls to California would also change them as characters and would require some manipulation of the plot.
But keeping these three elements in mind when writing means that improving any of them requires us to look critically at the other two. To fix a broken plot means to consider both the character and setting. To change a setting means modifying character actions and plot development, and so on and so forth.
So the exercise I have for you today involves thinking about your character critically, and using a modification of setting to understand them on another level.
Your Assignment: Every character has a place where they are comfortable and uncomfortable, and a common exercise involves writing a scene where your main character is somewhere they would love and somewhere they would hate (in Dread Nation this is the main character killing the dead in the woods around Miss Preston’s and killing dead at a university lecture, respectively).
But a better way to fully understand the depth and breadth of a character is to completely remove them from their time period. How does your 1980s girl fare in the 1880s? What trends does she love and what does she miss about home? Writing these kinds of quirky, irreverent scenes can help to get you out of the rut of your plot, and help you build a deeper, more nuanced character.
So: take your main character and write a scene with them a hundred years in the future or a hundred years in the past. As you write keep the following in mind:
What do they love about this new time? What do they hate?
How well do they adapt and what does that look like?
What is the hardest thing for them to overcome about the time shift? What do they miss most about their own time?
Feel free to share a bit of what you wrote in the comments if you’d like!