Developing Characters and Plots

Today, I attended a Zoom event sponsored by the South Carolina Writers Association, and I’m still pondering how slow I am to realize some things. But wait. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. The presentation, How to Write A Love Poem, was led by Ray McManus and Amber Wheeler Bacon, both teachers and writers who are amazingly knowledgeable about the craft. The conversation was stimulating and educational, and even though the slides were informative, I found myself taking additional notes. Why?

Because I’m a novice when it comes to writing fiction and poetry. I’ll likely never master poetry, but because of attending events such as today’s, going to conferences, reading books about writing, reading more fiction, and joining a writing group, I’ve come a long way from where I was a few years ago. I feel hopeful.

While I was listening and learning earlier this afternoon, I realized that not only did Amber and Ray know much more than I but also that most (maybe all) of the other Zoomers did too. They’ve been at it longer than I have, I reasoned, and then the lightbulb came on a little more brightly. They know more because they’ve studied, practiced, observed, edited, and worked on the craft longer and more earnestly than I.

I have excuses.

  • I was a teacher who always (almost always) tried to do the best job she could do to reach and encourage her students. To do this, I took courses, tried new things, observed what worked for others, and read my student evaluations for tips on improving. My subject area was (is) psychology, and although it was sometimes challenging timewise, I tried to keep up with changes in the field and in other areas that affected teaching (like online instruction, for example).
  • I was a busy mother trying to balance work and home, making everyone happy from the baby at home to the boss at work. It was more doable (or at least less stressful) before the girls became teenagers. I read and tried to follow principles that guaranteed the development of responsible, kind, brave children/adults. Their dad and I often look at them in awe and know we got lucky. They’re the best!
  • I was involved in church callings that required time and attention to matters I initially knew little about. Let’s just say I’m glad they never asked me to conduct music or play the piano.
  • I ran a few marathons and half-marathons, both of which required more than a modicum of training. One day when I was jogging in preparation for a marathon, it began snowing. I ran the three blocks home, rang the doorbell, and asked my son to get me a different coat, one with a more protective head covering. “You’ve got to be kidding,” he said. “Mom, it’s snowing out there.” But no, I was dead serious. I knew if you want to improve (and sometimes if you just want to perform), you have to work hard.

End of excuses

Since one of my courses was Human Relations, and there were few suitable textbooks in that area, Prentice-Hall offered me a contract to write one. I did so. That was hard…but not as hard as writing fiction. Facts are facts, but plot, character development, and dialogue are part of a different world, a genre I’d never studied. Reading fiction is easier than writing it, at least until you begin listening, learning, observing, and communicating with people who know what they’re doing.

So that’s where I am today—trying to learn. It’s not going to be easy peasy, but it’ll be worth it.

About jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer
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3 Responses to Developing Characters and Plots

  1. christawojo says:

    Congratulations on committing to writing fiction. It is a journey like no other, and you will learn more about yourself than anything else. Having a writing group makes the grueling, uncertain journey into a fun quest. It will feel uncomfortable sometimes, but don’t give up!


  2. Learning a new part of the craft will always benefit your main niche. I myself don’t enjoy business or technical writing, but they do play a part in improving my fiction writing on a whole. Have fun with your new venture!


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