"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Human Condition

My work-in-progress had come to a standstill around page 170. Days passed while I considered what was causing the writer's block, and I suspected it had something to do with the main character. In the past when a book has come to a standstill, it is usually because I haven't dug deep enough into the character's past, motivations, conflicts, and all that good stuff. Until I could pinpoint why this character was flat, I knew the book would go no farther.

Then it seemed that everywhere I turned, I was finding discussions and articles reminding me that the characters we writers create must face social and personal issues that most of us can relate to on some level, whether we have faced a similar situation, know of someone who has, or can merely empathize with it. When our characters face frailties and pitfalls, then our stories will transcend time and place. I realized, as I had suspected, that I hadn't fleshed out the main character enough. What I had made of her was basically superficial; i.e., I hadn't delved deep enough into the human condition.

As William Faulkner once said, "The only stories worth a writer's blood and sweat and tears are stories of the human heart in conflict with itself."

Another lesson re-learned. Sometimes we just have to drag out the homework again.


B.J. Anderson said...

This is such a great point, and I think I'm having the same problem with my main character as well. Thanks for this post; it was most helpful!

Linda Sandifer said...

You're welcome.