September 9, 2017: Seeing things from the antagonist's point of view (and seeing myself from a better one)

I have been drowning myself in kombucha and am—for the moment—healthy. Can we declare it a miracle cure? I'm voting yes, because my body is back and I'm able to focus again, and if that's due to fermentation and funk, it's good enough for me!

So, what exactly am I doing now? I finally took to heart what Shawn Coyne has pointed out multiple times in the phenomenal Story Grid Podcast: that, for an action story, the antagonist is the most important character.

Meaning: it's what the antagonist wants, and what the antagonist will do to get what he wants, that drives the story. 

I've nodded along to that for a while, but it finally clicked with me: I should build my novels from the antagonist's point of view FIRST. Which suddenly felt like the most obvious of all obvious things—but I've never done it that way. I've always focused on my protagonists instead.

So that's what I've been industriously doing: getting mega-clear on what each antagonist wants, and the clearly defined steps they're going to take to get there, for all four major antagonists across three novels. *cracks knuckles*

... And by industrious, I mean cycling between sheer idea generation, staring in confusion at my computer screen, meticulously trimming the split ends off my hair, and lying flat on my back in a state of paralysis.

The work progresses, is what I mean.

But seriously, I'm loving this shift in perspective. The more I dig into my antagonists and their goals, the more fascinated I am by their personalities, their relationships, their worldview. (And I completely love two of them. Even though I'd never want to actually meet them, because YIKES.)

All in all, it's making for a much richer story and a much happier writer. (That plus the kombucha, anyway!)

All good phases in my writing life mean that I have a stellar Pit Crew working on behalf of my imagination. You know what I mean? The resources that are currently cheering me on, challenging me, and championing the work.

Right now, the frontrunner is Lauren Sapala's SUPERB book The INFJ Writer. It's incredible. I devoured it earlier in the summer (when I first got bitten by the Myers-Briggs bug), and I've been going back through my notes on it again lately. (This interview with Sapala is also super helpful!)

She's so good at pinpointing the ways that I usually self-destruct (perfectionism in its many guises, like hyper goal-setting, over-structuring, anxiety, self-judgment) and she directs the way back to good writing practices, through intuition, a focus on growth, and an acceptance of a non-linear path.

I seem to forget this on a weekly basis. Like last week. I was obsessed with all things on habit development: after reading Gretchen Rubin's truly excellent book Better than Before, I immediately wanted to habit-ize my entire life. 

Until yesterday it hit me: I don't want the same exact routine every day. I don't actually do well with hyper-structure, even though I'm usually in love with it. ... Don't get me wrong: of course some habits are helpful. It's just when I say "some" I usually jump right to "twenty-five and I must be great at ALL OF THEM."

It seems I'm always coming back to what I've learned/am learning: Let go of rigid ideas about how the process must look. Let go of strict.

Embrace the things I can't always define. Embrace the mess. Aim for nourishment, immersion, momentum. Keep writing.

PS: Okay, another thing I've been loving lately is the podcast What Should I Read Next, by Modern Mrs. Darcy. Seriously, this show is my new best friend: charming people talking about their opinions on books? I can listen for hours. (Although my "to read" list is growing at an alarming rate...) If you're getting a little dry in your reading life, you especially need to give it a listen!