dog for feelings.jpg

This post will be of most interest to you new fiction writers out there.

I’ve been revising my current synopsis for the past week, and today I did the part I love most: I wrote my “feelings essays.”

As of this morning, the synopsis was in great shape. All the action was there and the characters’ personalities were well outlined. But that’s not enough for me. To be sure I had all my bases covered, I still needed my feelings essays.

This is, for me, the simplest part of writing fiction. I simply sit with pen and pad (for some reason, I need to do this longhand) and ask each character how he or she feels about the other characters. I do this throughout the writing of a synopsis, and again, throughout the writing of the book, because characters, just like real people, change over time. I always learn something new. Unlike struggling to figure out how to structure the scenes and twists in a story, the writing of a feeling essay is soooo easy. That’s because I’m not actually doing it. The characters are! All I need to do is write down what they say.

I ask them questions, such as “Adam, how did you feel about Maya before Rebecca showed up?” “Rebecca, why are you so afraid to tell the truth?” “Adam, how do you feel when you first see Kylie?” “Maya, what is it about you that makes you so willing to trust Jasmine?”  You get the idea. By noon, I had fifteen swiftly written pages. 

I then typed the salient paragraphs from each essay, after which I printed them. Then I set up my paper cutter on the dining room table and cut the paragraphs apart. Next, I spread them all out on the table. I assigned each paragraph a letter (A through FF, in this case; I had 32 paragraphs). Then I read through the synopsis and when I came to a place where a snippet from one of the “feelings essays” would help the reader understand the story, I’d jot “see A” or “see CC.”

Now, as soon as I finish this blog post–and eat dinner; John’s making tortellini–I’ll go through the synopsis on the computer, adding the paragraphs where they belong. And voila! Finished!

Well, almost. In bed tonight, I’ll do a final read-through for typos and any truly terrible grammar. In the morning, I’ll make the corrections and then email the manuscript to my editor. Then I’ll spend the weekend with my feet up and my brain turned off. Except. . . I’m really not happy with the name “Maya,” so I’ll spend some time thinking of a new name for her. In case you’d like to help, she’s thirty-six, a married pediatric surgeon who’s having trouble getting pregnant, and she’s feeling a bit insecure because of it. Oh, and she has secret. Doesn’t everyone?  

 

 

 

25 Comments

  1. Julie on January 9, 2009 at 12:27 am

    Wow, this is a fantastic idea! I think I’ll try it with my next manuscript as I do the prep work.
    Hmm…names, names. Seems like the new school of docs on TV have kind of trendy, old-fashioned, or neuter names–Violet or Addison from Private Practice, for instance. How about …
    Darby? Taylor? Jordan? Peyton?
    Or, more old-fashioned …
    Clara or Clare, Julia :), Hallie, Rachel, Kathryn
    The only two of those that are in the top 100 list for 1974 are Rachel and Kathryn, though!
    Good luck!

  2. Julie on January 9, 2009 at 8:13 am

    On the other hand, do NOT start doing this exercise in your head right as you get in bed. I did this last night, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep. OOPS!
    I did find out I knew my character pretty well, though! She never stopped talking and didn’t tell me a single thing I didn’t already know. (From my current manuscript I’m revising–not the new one.)
    I hope my first comment didn’t go into lala land–maybe I’m one of the approvees and you’re actually sleeping, Diane. 😉 I had quite the little list of names going…

  3. Margo on January 9, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Ah yes…feelings…Diane, you are an expert at that…now I know how you capture those emotions so well…you let the characters speak to you by writing a feelings essay. Excellent idea!…no wonder I get so close to the people in your books. I don’t know about everyone else but your characters become my friends and tug at my heart till the very end. I miss them for weeks after finishing your books…and of course that’s why I re-read your novels so I can find them again.
    I actually like the name Maya! Her name makes me think of someone almost exotic (don’t know if your character is this or not), strong and intelligent, thoughtful and gentle hearted.
    Diane, I can’t wait till you share just a bit of the WIP storyline with us. Do you have a title?

  4. Margo on January 9, 2009 at 8:58 am

    I’m in love with this picture! My baby Kramer would be so jealous, wouldn’t he?

  5. Diane Chamberlain on January 9, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Some great names, Julie. I tend to like the older names.
    Margo, this Maya is not exotic at all, which is why the name’s gnawing at me a bit. (Hmm…her sister in the book IS exotic. Maybe I should reverse their names.) In the interest of time, I emailed the synopsis in with the name “Maya” intact. I can always change it later.
    I love this picture, too, Margo. Makes me wonder what feelings are going on inside that sweet little head.

  6. Denise on January 9, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I like old names, too. I like interesting names but sometimes they can sound too pretentious like a soap opera. Lol
    I would imagine that the feelings process would be the easiest and most fun part of the writing process.

  7. Margo on January 9, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Diane, I like your idea of giving the exotic sister the name of Maya. Maybe the current Maya could be called Meredith…I like that name too. (-O:

  8. Mena O Neill on January 9, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Hi Diane,
    This story sounds great. I do like the name Maya. As I do Mia and Ria and Rio. But as you’re uneasy with it and you like old names and your heroine wants to be a mother how about Eve? or Evie? modern version Edie? just a thought. I know from experience that with your talent by the time we are reading this novel we will totally love whom ever she has become. All the very best with writing it.

  9. Denise on January 9, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Julie, I Like your suggestion of Jordan…that’s my daughter’s name. Lol I named her for a character (Jordan Baker) from THE GREAT GATSBY. When I named her Jordan 27 years ago, the name was not common for a female…most people thought it was a wacky name for a girl at the time. I think it went through a popularity phase 10-12 years ago.
    I think Diane may have used Jordan and a few of the other name suggestions in other novels. I’m guessing she has already consulted her handy dandy name list in this regard.
    My favorite of all of Diane’s characters’ names will always be Annie.

  10. brenda on January 9, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Jasmine is too Disney Worldish…Maya too Greek, Roman, whatever…but without knowing the ethnicity of the characters…a female peditrician in her 30’s…My daughter is 36…so I know the names that were familiar at that time. She was number one in h. s. class and went through college all A’s…she is a stay-at-home mom teacher who home schools her kids…her teachers wanted her to be a doctor since her brother (number l also) was becoming corporate attorney…okay…the name Katheryne…Angela…Jennifer–common at that time…Sarah…Elizabeth…Hope…
    I am reading Lamb’s book…library ordered it for me-I am not commenting yet…
    Diane-can’t wait…

  11. Gina on January 9, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Awww…what a cute puppy dog.
    How about the name…Melaine. Short for Mel or Laine. Just throwing it out there.

  12. Diane Chamberlain on January 9, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Margo, I can tell you like the “M” names. Hmm, wonder why? Actually, I try never to give two characters names beginning with the same letter for two reasons. It can sometimes confuse the reader, and–selfishly–when I make notes to myself, I use the character’s first initial. Maggie and Marcus in Before the Storm gave me fits for that reason! And Gina adds yet another M name to the mix. I had no idea there were so many of them.
    Mena, I’ve had both a Mia (more Ms!) and an Eve in starring roles in my books, so I can’t use them again, though obviously I love them both.
    Brenda, Jasmine fits her name, believe me. That may not be the final moniker, but it IS a good fit. I do like Kathryn and its various spellings. I especially like the old fashioned spelling: Catherine. So pretty.
    I’m taking the weekend off to clean my office (again), get some pictures framed and on the walls of my house, and party with friends. Then Monday, I start the outline, figuring out the structure of the book and breaking it down into scenes. My deadline is August 1, and it’s going to be mighty tight!

  13. Margo on January 9, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Diane, I was going to suggest my sister’s name but it starts with ‘M’ also (lol)…her name is Marla.

  14. Denise on January 10, 2009 at 9:02 am

    For some bizarre reason, my parents did not give me a middle name. When I got divorced and changed back to my maiden name, I also took on a middle name: Catherine, my mother’s first name.

  15. brenda on January 10, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Glad Jasmine fits…I guess with the granddaughters, I picture Jasmine at D. World. 🙂 My daughter is Katheryne…long story…there are supposedly only two with that spelling-the one she is named after…and my daughter…
    Annie is still my favorite character’s name. I don’t know why but when I remember your books…her name stands out…
    Can’t wait to hear more about the story!!!!
    Diane-I forget (sometimes) when we are BLOGGING that you are someone other than one of our friends-you are truly a gifted person…when I read your writing stragedy-one that we use when teaching writing–I was astonished that you could do it so quickly-not over a period of weeks…I truly wish your books would become movies…
    On another note…I am trying to read Lamb and keep up with the stories…

  16. brenda on January 10, 2009 at 10:13 am

    P.S. The cousin/aunt that my daughter and her namesake were named after: Catherine…however…it was changed by mistake. I like the C also, but of course, am now so used to the K…I do know this: You always choose the correct names in your books and they become our friends…

  17. brenda on January 10, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    A laugh for you young ones…one of my classes just finished Romeo and Juliet. We did a practice where they chose physical, personality, and character traits for their “true love.” They then had their parents do the same. Well, my other students in American Lit wanted to do the same (they are juniors in h. s.) It was so funny. They asked me what I looked for in a man. My answer, “In high school, a boy who did not smoke, drink, curse, was smart, athletic, and going to college (this was the early-mid 60’s…remember).” They asked what I looked for when I married in my 50’s (I am not married now…) I said, “Alive.” They laughed until they almost cried. I explained that although I had many proposals, I put off remarrying for a long, long time, and that I was joking… They were so funny looking for gorgeous, smart, nice partners…this is also a good strategy for determing personality versus character…it is a writing/reading strategy…
    Thought you might get a chuckle out of the kids…

  18. Denise on January 10, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Brenda, love your ‘alive’ response! Lol

  19. Margo on January 10, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Brenda, I’m with you…ANNIE was my fav character name of Diane’s…I felt like she was so real and her name just seemed to fit her personality. Another fav character name of mine was SHELLY in Diane’s SUMMER’S CHILD…these 2 characters have remained in my heart ever since I read the books. I re-read them often because I miss these people. Didn’t Shelly’s name absolutely fit her perfectly?

  20. brenda on January 11, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Margo-Shelley fit. It is almost time for me to begin my yearly “trek” with Diane Chamberlain. I will begin her books and read them again…I will remember the names again, but for this book, I still like Katheryne (any spelling) or Elizabeth.
    I FINISHED The Hour…by Lamb…it was a journey in itself…a tough one…I wanted to give up so many times but kept on until the end. I will return it to the library tomorrow. Some intriguing thoughts.
    Gina-thanks for rec. the Burroughs books on your Book Club site…they are something (MEMOIRS)…
    Back to work grading papers and some other things…

  21. Gina on January 11, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Hi all,
    Hope everybody has a great day today. Glad you are enjoying Burroughs Brenda.
    I’ve started on Wicked’s sequel, Son of a Witch yesterday. Pretty good so far!
    I’m gonna be cheering for the NY Giants today!!
    Have a good Sunday everybody!

  22. brenda on January 11, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    The Pilot’s Wife-one of my favorites by A. Shreve is on television today-seen it before, but I have to watch it again while I finish another Burroughs…then start on a chick lit…being lazy and resting…weather disgusting…

  23. Margo on January 11, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Brenda, I’m about ready to re-read KEEPER OF THE LIGHT for the 5th or 6th time…every so often I HAVE to read it and I usually pick January for some reason…probably because of all the cold snowy weather we are having and the book places me in the Outer Banks with Annie and the others. This re-read might have to wait till next month tho…I’m definitely going to read I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE very soon and it’s a HUGE book. I gave Gary 6 books for X-mas and he’s already read 3 of them…a fast reader and with our weather he enjoy’s spending the afternoon with book in hand. Speaking of Gary, he’s making us spaghetti today with salads and garlic bread. Gina, my Sunday is going great, especially since Gary’s cooking! (-O:

  24. brenda on January 11, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Gary is fixing my favorites…What is it about the Annie books that keeps pulling us there??? I agree with you-it is usually this time of year that I start again…Margo-Diane has given us many wonderful moments of reading…

  25. Margo on January 11, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Brenda, I think that Annie keeps pulling me back to that book because she was mysterious and we really only got to know her thru flashbacks and thru the eyes of others. I loved the fact that she was a stained glass artist which has always intrigued me…and Diane was brillant in comparing ‘light’ with her stained glass and the sympolism of light from the lighthouse. The fact that Olivia felt haunted by her too and almost wanted to become Annie was fascinating. This book will always be my favorite…I find something new in it everytime I read it.

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