Characters set the Prose

“The character on the page determines the prose—its music, its rhythms, the range and limit of its vocabulary—yet, at the outset at least, I determine the character. It usually happens that the fictitious character, once released, acquires a life and will of his or her own, so the prose, too, acquires its own inexplicable fluidity. This is one of the reasons I write: to ‘hear’ a voice not quite my own, yet summoned forth by way of my own.”

Author Joyce Carol Oates, image care of Wikimedia Commons.

~Joyce Carol Oates

Have truer words been spoken? Characters guide the writing. We build them. We give them life. Yet once upon the page, the character moves to a tune its own. We let the characters guide our hands, more often than not – and while we may put them in situations that cause them stress, worry, even pride…their personalities decide how those very situations will play out.

Tones should appropriately shift, person to person. Hopes. Fears. Vocabulary. One soul is not the same as another, and neither will each behave the same as the other.

Take your time. Breathe. Become your character. How would they react? How do they think? Many people do it in the act of reading, picturing themselves escaping into another soul’s life. Well, writers, close your eyes and be able to do the same with your own creations. Don’t speak with your voice, your authority, for each – think how they would act.

The writer may be the creator, but the character is the forward momentum of any world, both for the readers and the writer himself. It is why outlines are only good to a point. We may have our “goals,” but our own characters may surprise us in the routes they take.

“People do not spring forth out of the blue, fully formed—they become themselves slowly, day by day, starting from babyhood. They are the result of both environment and heredity, and your fictional characters, in order to be believable, must be also.”
~Lois Duncan

A Pinch of Character, a Pound of Plot

“Plot grows out of character. If you focus on who the people in your story are, if you sit and write about two people you know and are getting to know better day by day, something is bound to happen.”
~Anne Lamott

“I like to think of what happens to characters in good novels and stories as knots–things keep knotting up. And by the end of the story–readers see an “unknotting” of sorts. Not what they expect, not the easy answers you get on TV, not wash and wear philosophies, but a reproduction of believable emotional experiences.”
~Terry Mc Millan

Set Me Free

Set me off into the Black

far beyond the stars

set me off into the Wild

far beyond the wilderness.

Set me free of mortal hearts

and weighted thoughts,

so low, so low,

and break these chains that

bind me to this coil—

what life,

what prison

now is this?

Press the suit and

straighten up that tie,

you are a man, it says

but you are just a boy

playing at a world of

mysterium and drama that has

devoided itself of plot.

There is a key

to thee and thine and mine,

and nestled just behind that door

is freedom yet incarnate.

In a breath, breathe—

so few have ever tasted

the freshness of the air—

recycled reconfigurations of reality—

that will be your paycheck please—

and this feeling is not falsified,

unbound, unguarded it yearns

for the taking—just breathe—

and feel the air,

feels, felt, feeling

this momentary being—

all I want is to breathe

and to feel, yet to be,

to stretch beyond perception

and feel the days beyond

that calendar—no shifts scheduled here.

No vacancy,

sincerest apologies

this mind is mine and yet

one waits beyond, yet yours—

this mirror of a soul you grasp

what a reflection is it not?

There is the dawning,

the rain is falling down

and through the swirl of purple haze,

these diamonds dribble through the

emerald leaves, like tiny lovers—

in your caress, this breath unbidden

slithers through my chest

and down into my roots—

I am born again, stretching

for the clouds.

Air, give me air,

Prayer and dream and reverie

are forever in the field—

give me space to work.

My latest contribution to the wonderful One Shot Poetry Wednesdays! Once you’ve had a look, check out some of the other One Shot Poets as well– they’re a skilled bunch of poets, looking to form a community and support one another.  Enjoy!

Nothing is as it seems

I woke up early this morning and literally rolled out of bed with this one on my mind. If it was related to dreams I had last night, then it’s probably a good thing I don’t remember them. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy:

Nothing is as it seems—

The old die old,

The young die young,

One perpetuates the other

In waves of maddening

Disillusion not withstanding—

We are players and audience

The stage ours to watch

And ours to play.

But where is the director?

The play plays on in

Such maddening discourses,

There is a plot twist somewhere—

Is this how it was written?

Read somewhere that parents should

They should never have to bury their children,

But the children fight their wars

And the children fight each other

And the old have lived it all.

The mind reflects in odd ways—

Always they remember the old days as better

Days, but they are gone.

Where is the proof?

The mind is fickle, it remembers

What it wants to remember

So the monologue seems better—

There is no difference.

The old are tired.

All they want to do is to lie down,

But they are watching and waiting—

Am I to die?—

But the young are restless

And in their roaming the world

Every moment and monument is theirs—

But they hasten to sleep

And they do not arise,

And the old weep and laugh in terror.