Doing the Hard Thing

I wrote recently about my favorite exercise for crafting character–100 Declarative Sentences. If I don’t say so myself, I was rather eloquent about the magic that happens when I’ve made 70 or 80 statements about a person. However, today I hang my head in shame and confess that the last two times I did this exercise I allowed myself to stop at 50 sentences. I felt I knew the characters well enough, and continuing to proclaim facts about them seemed too hard.

As in many life situations, the thing that seems hard is precisely the thing that needs doing. Not knowing what to write next was the reason to push myself to figure it out. If I had really known the characters well enough, I would have been able to complete the exercise.

And if I’d kept going, I might have discovered the difficult truth I’ve only just realized: that the wrong person was the main character. In fact, now that I reflect on my process, perhaps I saw that truth hovering at around #65 and turned away from it, convincing myself that 50 declarative sentences was enough.

I gave myself permission to stop short of the hard part of the exercise, and now I must do a much harder thing. Having finished the novel, having spent 10 days basking in a triumphant glow, I take a deep breath, ready my notebook, open a new document and start over.

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