Friday, March 4, 2011

Writing and Traveling: A Match Made it Hualien

I've just returned from a three-day trip to Hualien, the east coast of Taiwan.  I wasn't planning on going, but I changed my mind at the last minute.  I was so glad I did, because it was one of the best weekends I've had since coming to Taiwan.  We visited Taroko Gorge National Park and the surrounding beaches, where I saw some of the most breathtaking scenery in my entire life.  I mean, I saw shades of blue I didn't know existed.  I also got to bond with the new CIEE students, which was really eye-opening, because my Chinese is (finally) at a level where I can appreciate more of the language's nuances.  Many of the new students are American-born Taiwanese, so we spoke Chinese almost the whole weekend, and (huzzah) my head didn't explode.  Was I proud of myself?  You bet.

I've also gotten The Stylish Blogger Award from Michael Offut and Devin Bond.  Thank you both very much!  I'm super flattered. I'm required to answer a few questions about myself and award other bloggers, which I'll do next week.  I'm a bit tired from the trip.  It's not going to be a long night.

I assigned my second post of the week to be about writing.  I've been reluctant to talk about writing-- specifically my writing--the same way I've been a reluctant blogger.  This is a bit ironic: a girl who can and does talk about anything and everything at great length is reluctant to discuss herself.  But I'm opening up more (thanks, Taiwan) and I took the time to discuss the writing process with fellow blogger Misha Gericke and the plot and characters of my newest project with a friend back home.  They've been enormously helpful with their suggestions.  Misha asked me if I'm a plotter or pantser.  When I asked her to clarify, she asked if I plan out plot points or if I write by the seat of my pants, an interesting question to be sure.  I guess I do a bit of both.  I plan and then write by the seat of my pants.

I don't write from plot.  I write from character.  Character, character, character.  I create characters, throw them into situations, and watch how they react.  I listen to their dialog.  And then I write it down.  Recently, this process has been tougher than usual, because I usually give up on my characters before I commit a word to the page.  My newest project, however, is forcing me to be both accountable to you, my readers, and develop these characters more.  In turn, they've shown me hues and shades that I didn't see before.  It happened this weekend, while I was taking in the landscape.  My characters deepened and sprouted dimensions that took me aback in a good way.

Characters should be like people: inconsistent, idiosyncratic, and surprising.  Their motivations should be clear, but how they get to what they want shouldn't be.  I believe a proper tension between motivation and character is what makes a literary work interesting.  I've got no problem with the characters. What I'm wondering is if my protagonist has enough motivating him to push the trajectory of the novel in the direction I want it to go.  And there's only one way to find out: keep writing.

See you all Tuesday.


  1. Hey Marjorie! Hualien sounds stunning. Do post pictures. :-)

    Congrats on the awards!

    I think the way you look at writing is right nothing should be too clear, except for the main character.

    As for motivation: want tension? Add to the stakes. ;-)

  2. You should write an entry about Taiwan. I've never been there and want to know if it is filled with factories because everything is made in Taiwan. Also are their cities super high-tech like a city of the future?

    Best of luck in your writing. With so many exotic locales to go to with a laptop, I'd probably just sit in a cafe and try to write while watching the traffic flow by.

  3. Just stumbled upon your lovely blog :) Congratulations on your awards! XOLaura

  4. Awesome, Laura! Thanks for following!