Three-thousand Words a Day, the amazing Jane Green
I enjoyed Jane Green‘s keynote address so much, that I bee-lined to her workshop on emotional honesty in writing. What really impressed me? Well, I’m a sucker for a charmer, and this bestselling queen of chick lit is that. But she also knocked my socks off when somebody asked about her daily writing goals. This woman pumps out 3,000 words a day! WriMos, eat your hearts out!
In her workshop, Jane facilitated several writing exercises. The first one: make a list of all your identities. “For instance,” she explains in her delightful British lilt. “I am a writer, a friend, a teacher, a keynote speaker, and so on. Write down as many as you can identify.”
Most of us came up with at least twenty nouns we could use to describe ourselves.
“Now adjectives,” Jane instructs. “Write down as many as you can think of to describe yourself.” My own lengthy list ranged from creative to sassy to downright bitchy.
And now the big, heavy question about your character development: Do you know each of your characters as well as you know yourself? Well, you should, says Jane. You should be able to list as many identity words, brother, sister, lover, fighter, author, bottle-washer, for your characters as you can for yourself. And it’s the same for adjectives.
Try it. Set a timer–give yourself five minutes to make your lists for yourself and as much time as you need to come up with equally long lists for your characters. It’s not easy, but it’s worthwhile.
Because, according to Jane, you need to know your main character very very well before you write even the first word of her story.
Jane also discusses the art of observing interesting characters all around you. “There is nothing wrong with picking someone who fascinates you and writing about that character.”
She led another exercise on this theme, asking us to think about someone we’d noticed in the past 24 hours.
Try it. Pick somebody on your next bus ride, your next trip to the grocery store. What do you notice about this person? Now write about it. See what kind of character you can develop.
“We remember people,” says Jane. “Not by what they say or do but by how they make us feel.”