Learn how to add character dimension with Megan Giddings, author of Lakewood.
What’s in Store
- Experiment with voice through letter-writing
- Discover how an object can help you develop a character
Prompt #1: Letter Writing
In Lakewood, I had the main character, Lena, write several letters to her best friend, Tanya to talk about the book’s events.
Begin a story by having a character write one letter to another character. Think about how you’ll create a voice, a world, and a connection with a reader all through this letter.
Prompt #2: Imagining Research
One thing that was the most fun for me was writing different experiments that Lena has to take part in. Write your own outlandish research study experiment, try to make it as detailed as possible, and think about what a reader could learn from a character who does this.
Prompt #3: Objects of Importance
How can objects help you create a character?
Choose something that is seemingly small that belongs to the character you created in the first prompt. It could be something like a bag or a T-shirt or even a pen.
Now write three paragraphs. Each paragraph should be a different important moment in your character’s life where the object is also present.
Q&A with Megan Giddings
I’m curious about what it has been like to have a book baby born all during quarantine. How has that met your expectations?
It’s been really strange, actually. Sometimes it feels like my book just came out yesterday, sometimes it feels like it never came out, and then every once in a while, like tonight, it’s like, oh yeah! My book is out! It’s here, I’m holding it.
I feel like I’m not going to process that I even published my book until next year just because I feel like I’m processing so many things at once. My book came out the day before my state did the shelter-in-place, and I had a reading planned where I live and teach, and my students were really excited and going to be there. I instead spent the day getting everything ready so that my family could stay home, and it was just such a different experience.
What do you do when you feel unmotivated and uninspired in your writing?
Sometimes I read and I try to seek out things, especially things that I know in the past have made me excited about writing. I find writing and reading really go well together.
Sometimes, like in the past, when we could go places safely, I would go to an art museum or I would take a long walk or I would call a friend up, and be like, let’s walk and talk. Let’s get coffee and talk. And those conversations would usually push me back toward having ideas and questions.
Now I’ve been watching a lot more TV, I’ve been watching a lot of K-Dramas; I’ve just finished Mystic Pop-up Bar, it’s on Netflix if you’re interested. Although I’ll give a content warning for some violence and suicide, but it’s really good, it made me excited to write while watching it.
Did you keep a certain schedule to finish your novel? If so, what was it?
I didn’t really, but it was because I was working a lot of jobs at once. I started while I was a grad student, and that was really easy because I could write every single day and there wasn’t any other opportunities. And then I worked as a social media manager, and I also did odd jobs and other things. Which is kind of like, I would write at lunch, I would write for an hour before work, I might write anywhere where I got the chance to keep going.
Oftentimes, when I sit down to write, I don’t know what happens next. When you get stuck like that, what do you do?
When I get stuck like that, where I don’t know what happens next, I reread what I’m writing, and I try and find the way I may have tricked myself into a corner if I’m uninspired. Because sometimes when I get stuck at the end, it means that there’s something in the beginning or in the middle that means I can’t keep going, and I fix that. And usually, the way I try to fix that is I go through, and I read it out loud, and I try to listen only to the sound of my own voice reading, and I mark down every place where I pause, or every place where I’m like, “What am I talking about?” And usually, if I fix those places where I’m like, “What am I saying? What am I doing here?” that usually makes me get unstuck, it helps me push further into what I was writing.
This event was originally recorded on October 30th, 2020.
Megan Giddings is a visiting assistant professor at Michigan State University, a fiction editor at The Offing and a senior features editor at The Rumpus. Her work has been published recently in The Iowa Review, The Paris Review online, The Southeast Review and Story. In 2018, she won a Barbara Deming Memorial Grant for feminist fiction. Megan’s first novel, Lakewood, was published in March 2020 by Amistad.
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