The November Writer to Writer speaker was Michele Dominguez Greene, actress and author of the YA novel Keep Sweet. Her book is the story of a young woman in the controlling, confining religious community Pineridge, where she lives with her father, his seven wives and her 28 siblings.
Michele has had a long successful career in TV, film and theater. She also teaches writing workshops and she gave us some great tips to help us make our characters come to life. Michele has learned to create 'triggers' to make her acting believable, and has found this skill useful in her writing as well.
Some writing tips from Michele:
About sensory detail: think about establishing an atmosphere in the setting of your story. Describe a room – the lighting, the warm wood, the hum of white noise for instance. Visuals, sounds, the feel of your surroundings can set a tone in your writing. What’s the physical environment for your characters? Create an evocative world to suit their wants and needs. This will make their world real.
About description: don’t over-describe. The old ‘show, don’t tell’ is still true. One example of tying into a particular dramatic scene is to use the description of the familiar to evoke emotion, to contrast with a sudden shock, for instance. Describe familiar surroundings, then pare them down to the essentials for maximum impact in setting a powerful emotional moment. Little details can add depth to a story.
About triggers: Use smells to trigger reactions in the characters. What smells would make your characters anxious, relaxed, or sad? What could evoke memories, and why? Plan triggers for sight, smell and taste as well as certain trigger phrases for each of your characters. Develop a handful of key things that carry through the story. It’s important that your character not do something 'out of character' without having established a reason.
I felt I’d had a helpful mini writing course in this short Writer to Writer meeting and am looking forward to reading Keep Sweet. If Michele writes as she speaks, it will be a great book.