In my internet wanderings, I recently came across the blog White Hot Truth. While I don't know its author, writer/entrepreneur/ creative-type Danielle La Porte, I was quite taken with some of her thoughts and reflections. In fact, I'll go off on a tangent here before I even really start, to share a fantastic quote from one of her posts: "Everybody is amazing at something...and your genius is a cousin to your joy." I think she's totally right, on both counts!
But what set off my editor-radar most especially as I prowled through Danielle's blog were two of the "burning questions" that she commonly asks in one form or another, when she interviews her fellow outside-the-box-types (like nonconformists or financial visionaries).
The first: What do you know to be true, unquestionably beyond doubt, certain with every cell of your being, completely, passionately, righteously certain?
And the second: What was the dumbest thing that you used to believe?
One of my first thoughts upon reading these questions was how very much I'd love to pose these same questions to book characters (and their respective writers). Because I think that for a character to feel truly real, the writer has to know--and the reader has to understand--the deeply, sometimes secretively, held things about a character, whether or not they're explicitly a part of the story. So I'm borrowing these vibrant questions (per the disclaimer on Danielle's site that says that republishing her stuff is cool, as long as she's credited), tweaking them a bit, and passing them along as potential inspiration.
So if you're in the mood for a writing exercise, take the main character(s) in whichever book you're working on right now. And wherever you are in the story right now, be it beginning, ending, or murky middle, pause and ponder these questions. (If you're revising, rather than writing, try asking question #1 twice, at both the story's beginning and end, to get a good glimpse--hopefully--of your character's full arc/growth.)
1. What thing(s), minor or monumental, does your character know to be TRUE in this moment? What, for her/him, is unquestionably beyond doubt, certain with every cell of his/her being, beyond all hesitation--simply and inescapably and absolutely true?
2. [This one's my own addition.] Does anyone know that your character believes the above to be true? (Who? Or if not, why not?)
3.What was the dumbest thing that your character once believed to be true that s/he later learned wasn't entirely true...or wasn't true at all?
Ahhh. Good stuff, eh?
Feel like sharing what you uncover? Go for it--I'd be delighted to "meet" some deeply authentic, bare-souled characters in the comments section--or for you to blog about these ideas on your own blog, and post the link back here. And, truth be told, when you're done thinking about these questions for your characters, they're pretty fantastic to ponder for yourself, too....