Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Little Tiny Baby Mystery

Obligatory baby pic... onesie courtesy of my fabulous agent!
I've just spent the last three and a half months on maternity leave with my first child, so I'm sorry to say that I don't have too much in the way of new writing tips (does typing one handed with my iPhone count?) or mystery books to recommend (read? ha ha ha). I do, however, feel as though I have given a lot of thought about what it means to be a conscious human being. And if my pretention hasn't stopped you yet, please do read on.

Besides the usual diapering and feeding, I've spent many hours staring into my newborn son's eyes, wondering what the heck is going on inside of that developing brain. And all of that loving gazing and ruminating reminds me just how mysterious we are to one another, even as full-grown verbally skilled adults. Not only that, but how much of what we think we know is actually projection. Case in point: My son cries when he's getting swaddled. My husband interprets this as his not wanting to be constrained. I, on the other hand, believe the baby is crying because he was just being held and now he's being put down. Will we ever know the truth? Doubtful. But our conjecture is probably more revealing about us as individuals than anything else. As parents, my husband places a high value on freedom and individuality, while I value nurturing (hello, biological determinism... I mean, could we be any more cliched?).

Anyway, this gap of not knowing can be a rich source of material for stories. Even if your characters aren't babies, chances are, like most human beings, they have blind spots (whassup Laura Ellen???). So maybe these kinds of questions can be helpful when writing and trying to create conflicts. What assumptions do your characters make about one another? What can they never really know? What do your characters not even know about themselves? How can you use these mysteries to enliven the bigger mysteries in your story? And an even bigger mystery... how can I get this little guy to nap?


  1. I'm in love :-)

    In response to your great post: I love working on a character arc like that. And the best part (and hardest...) is writing a scene where nothing is being said in dialogue, but so much in action.

    Congrats on that beautiful baby! Swoon...

  2. Aw, thank you! So true—and yet so much harder to rely on action!


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