In thinking about a character's journey, we can all come up with "standard" types of change. Our protagonist can face her fear and hopefully conquer it. Or, someone can complete the journey he has needed to complete. But, often, the change within a real person is far more complex. Sometimes, in our own experiences, we can't even fully express why something was meaningful to us, we just know that it was.
That's where our other brain comes along. While I was taking my memoir writing class this weekend, the teacher, Samantha Dunn, claimed that the most powerful literary writing occurs when our subconscious is doing all of the work. Our conscious thoughts are often clear, simple. We understand them. But, our subconscious is the reservoir for all of our contradictions, those messy ideas we have that don't really make any sense. She had us complete this sentence about ourselves:
I'm the kind of person who (fill in the blank) , but (fill in the blank).
One of mine, for example, was "I'm the kind of person who makes an absolute mess in my home, but I project myself so well to others that they never suspect it." It says a lot about me, huh?
Making your subconscious do the writing increases that messiness factor in our characters' journey, the components that often make a reader much more interested in a person. It allows us, as readers, to become a voyeur.
So, how do we get our other brain to do the work? Michelle has a post on Daydreaming that is the important first step in accessing our subconscious for our writing. We have to allow ourselves to get lost in thought.
After that, the main tool we have is freewriting. Usually this involves a time limit. Tell yourself that for 20 minutes, your pen will not stop moving or your fingers will not stop tapping on the keyboard. Even when you can't think of anything, continue to write words down. Start it with a topic: a memory or a prompt.
Then, just go.
What you'll find is that when your conscious brain runs out of ideas, your body is still able to proceed with the exercise. And, in those times, you'll start writing some pretty strange things. Take a look at those things. Find the elements in what you wrote that spark some interest in you or elements that you feel guilty or embarrassed about writing. Those are the messages that have come from your subconscious. If you do this sort of exercise with a particular character in mind, you may find that you can tap into his or her subconscious, allowing you to depict a much more interesting evolution than you could have come up with before. You can also do this with an idea, coupled to what Scott wrote about yesterday, to find out if your planned story has enough interesting material for you to discuss for a couple hundred pages.