Thursday, July 26, 2007

Say The Secret Word...

...a little birdie drops down and…

Oh, geez. You guys aren’t old enough to remember Groucho Marx, are you? Yeah, me either.


The craft post. Finally.

And the word is…drum roll, please….






More specifically, UNHEALED WOUND.

Let’s back up.

After five years of studying the craft of writing, most of what I hear in workshops isn’t new. But once in awhile, someone says something in a different way that brings a concept into clearer focus. That’s what happened in the Michael Hauge workshop.

Those of us who call ourselves writers know all about backstory. “Backstory” is—hey, just like it sounds—the stuff that happened before the book opens. All the crap in the character’s history that makes him/her who he/she is today. More importantly, it shapes and defines the character’s goals and motivations.

The way Hague puts it: Your character should have an unhealed source of pain—a WOUND. This wound is typically suffered in adolescence and can consist of a single incident or an ongoing series of events or situations that results in a belief about what caused the wound. That BELIEF in turn results in a fear that the same behavior will lead to the same result, i.e., more pain.

Roll the above into one big ball of wax and, over time, you get a character who creates a façade for himself as protection. Hague calls this exterior the character’s IDENTITY. He calls what you have when you strip away all the protective crap, the character’s ESSENCE. Inner conflict stems from the tug of war between identity and essence, i.e., who we "think" we are vs. who we “truly” are.

In a romance, when the hero sees through the heroine’s protective armor…when he breaks through the barriers she’s erected to ward off pain…and when the heroine does likewise with the hero—that “essence-to-essence” connection leads to falling in love. It’s the old case of “he sees me as I really am and accepts me warts and all.” (Cue swelling violins.)

Okay, so I whittled down an hour’s worth of workshop into a minute. To me, the whole unhealed wound business was worth the price of admission (basically free, unless you count the conference cost, the airline tickets, the room...). Like I said, I already knew about backstory. But to think of it as a wound...already, since I've been back, I was tying up the end of a short story, got a little stuck, asked myself about the character's wound, and voila. End of story.

Vive la wound!

1 comment:

Pamela Tyner said...

I think I would enjoy this workshop!