The creamy filling.

Something happened last night that really started me thinking about how far I’ve come on this journey.  I tend to be pretty hard on myself, I’ve been pursuing what I’ve known to be my calling for decades now, and it doesn’t seem like I’ve really gotten that much closer to making it a viable reality instead of a pipe dream.   But I’ve had a moment of insight, a chance to peer through the looking glass, and I see not how far I have still to go, but how far I’ve traveled.

My real problem with writing content that reaches out and grabs a reader has always been ‘the creamy filling’ of a story.  Dialogue comes easily, since I see the scene in my head, all I have to do is transcribe what the characters say, word for word, and it works every time.  The mechanics of where they are, what they’re doing, again come from that.   If I see a character picking something up, then I say that they pick it up.  But there’s more to a story than that, there’s internal dialogue, deep characterization, embroidering the little flaws, quirks and foibles of a character in an attempt to reach and touch reality with them.  When I first got deeply into my writing, I had a real issue with this.  Certainly, I thought, my readers really didn’t want to know such pointless, worthless minutiae about a person who doesn’t exist, right?   Wrong.   Meeting a well developed character is like falling in love, and just like you want to see, grasp, embrace and know every little secret about your new found soul mate, sharing some of these points with your characters helps a reader to fall in love with them as well.   There’s a part in Clearing of the Way where Nathalie remembers a quilt she made as a young teenager, which she fashioned out of washcloths instead of the precise cotton patches that her cousins had used.   Years ago, I would have seen the scene in my head, known that it had happened, but would have decided it was too pointless to actually add to a work in progress.      Who would want to know that?  Now I see that it is a valuable insight into how Nathalie’s mind works, and a way to show the reader that she’s always a little step off, even with the family she adores so much.

Now, it’s possible to overdo this and meticulously (ugh, word sounds like work, a real killjoy, doesn’t it?) describe every single thing… which was where I went in overreaction when I realized that my stories were lacking.   A creamy filling still requires a pastry to hold it in.   The search for the happy middle has been a journey, but it’s a journey I’ve taken quite a few steps in.

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