I always considered myself a deep person. I can be passionate and caring and I cry at sappy stories. I’m emphatic and wear all my emotions on my sleeve. I love deep conversations. And I never ever wanted to consider myself shallow. Shallow meant to me, someone who didn’t care or only thought of themselves.
But in the writing world, shallow could mean your writing is weak, not detailed, without substance. Our characters need to be selfish or see the world through specific lenses or they wouldn’t be very interesting. We need details in all parts of story—setting so the reader can feel like they are there—and conflict or there would be no plot.
I noticed when I first started writing, my characters weren’t very defined. I had a difficult time figuring out who they would be and what they would do and when I did come up with something the details were vague. Everyone sounded the same. And because of that, I didn’t know where to go in my story and thus, I didn’t write very many words.
Why was that? What was it that prevented me from creating a funny, engaging story? Why did my characters for lack of a better word—lack character? In my head the ideas seemed ideal, but when I put words down on the page none of it worked.
That’s when I realized I was shallow in my writing. The thought actually made me laugh. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. And then I realized I had to do something about it.
To write an engaging story, I have to write things that I personally wouldn’t say or do.
See, in real life I try to think the best of people. To not take offense or react. To be positive, and ignore the rest. Give people the benefit of the doubt. To not look deep into a person’s motivation, but try to accept people for who they are and not judge.
But if I wrote my characters the way I want to be, it wouldn’t make a very interesting book. Most likely, it would be pretty boring. (Hmm, that makes me I wonder—does that make me boring too? Oh don’t answer that…..I digress.).
Goals, Motivation and Conflict
It became clear I couldn’t write my characters this way. I had to come up with events and situations in their past to add depth, to create reasons why they acted the way they did. To think of bad, horrible things. To put into words bad, horrible things. Give them words they would say, and reactions to the people and setting around them. Gasp, maybe even have one of their parents not be so great at parenting. Or double gasp—someone has to die.
Oh but it’s so negative. I don’t like to think in the negative.
So I fought with myself a bit until I realized that bad situations happen and that is how we grow. I may not like it or give it much thought, but these things do happen and it’s important to have them happen in our manuscripts.
If you’re new to writing you’ll learn these three words come up quite regularly in classes and writing workshops. Everything seems to go back to defining the GMC for each character and every writer will tell you they have to figure out what their characters GMC’s are before they can complete a book. It matters, so spend time figuring this out. I know for me I found it difficult to decide. I wanted my heroine to be this, but also this, and also this. But then she was an ‘every person’ and not unique. And it made me so confused, I didn’t know how she would respond to any situation I put her in. So, as I learned to narrow the GMC’s down, it became easier to pinpoint exactly how my character would react. Which in turn made it easier to write.
So, the answer to my question—Am I really that shallow? Yes, Yes I was. And since recognizing that, I’ve been able to learn more about GMC and how to go deeper in my writing, which in turn has helped me move closer to my goal of becoming a published author.
Hugs & Blessings,
Although new to the writing fiction world, Denise Colby has over 20+ years experience in marketing, creating different forms of content and copy for promotional materials. Taking the lessons learned from creating her own author brand Denise M. Colby, Denise enjoys sharing her combined knowledge with other authors.