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?