Writer’s Craft: Get Intimate Why Don’t You
On WRITING THE INTIMATE CHARACTER by Jordan Rosenfeld (Writer’s Digest Books, 2016)
Jordan Rosenfeld is an expert on storytelling craft, having published many books on the subject. And she never disappoints. Her books offer insightful and intimate exploration of how writers can dig deep, and strategize to tell better stories; always told in a narrative voice that is accessible, as in conversational, witty, as in playful, and knowledgeable, as in a mentor to mentee tone.
And now, in Rosenfeld’s new book, WRITING THE INTIMATE CHARACTER, I’ve found yet another great addition to my writer’s bookshelf, and toolbox—with many nuggets of wisdom to call upon as I move ahead through future manuscripts; and rewrite those that already exist. Writing is rewriting, isn’t it?
WRITING THE INTIMATE CHARACTER delves into the psychology of the writer’s process, or at least offers different ways of thinking of the process as a connection between her or his psychology, which can inform the characters that he or she chooses to develop; and also intimately is tied to the Point of View chosen to tell her or his story.
That said, it’s good for us writers to think, more intimately, about how character informs Point Of View, and vice versa. And Rosenfeld helps facilitate this with an exploration, for example, of “Surface” (as in what the character feels on a base level) versus “Subset Cues” (as in what’s beneath those layers) to think about when crafting characters.
Of the intimate character, Rosenfeld says: “Here are the basic cues you can use to demonstrate character emotion and experience” (p.54). And throughout the book she then offers examples, across all genres, of how Physical-Action Cues, Sensory Cues, Dialogue Cues, Other Characters’ Reactions, and also Interior Monologue Cues, and Image Cues come into play for helping define characters, and within whichever narrative Point Of View is used to help demonstrate the characters.
In fact, I am pleased to have been exposed to so many different examples from varied genres in the book, and how (no matter if you’re writing Literary Fiction, Sci-Fi, Mystery, YA, Thriller, etc.) getting “intimate” with your characters is possible, and only strengthens your story. Unless you write, or read in the various genres, you might not make the connection, but this book helps give me a better understanding/working knowledge of how important selecting the appropriate narrative point of view (first, 2nd, 3rd, Omniscient, etc. and all their variations) is for your particular story, and hos it relates to character development and story ac. As well, my curiosity to explore more genres, and other narrative points of view is now encouraged after reading this book. (Actually, I now realize that I, the writer, can perhaps fix the problem with the protagonist of a story, with whom I’ve long struggled. Maybe it’s the point of view I was using that wasn’t working well for the intimacy of that protagonist? Only another draft will tell.)
And, aside from such revelations I mention above, wonderful nuggets and insight come from the short, yet truly effective, end-of-chapter “NOW YOU” exercises, where Rosenfeld offers a chance for practical application of the material covered in each chapter. (And, at the very end of the book, there are more exercises that I’m certain also will help aid me in crafting many stories to come).
In essence, this is why we writers can benefit from reading about, and exercising our craft—no matter how experienced we are. Add WRITING THE INTIMATE CHARACTER to your writer’s bookshelf (or even, if you’re only a reader), because it’ll give you a better understanding of how to become more intimate with the characters you decide to follow through any given story.