A New Way to Meet Your Character: a #HFGather Meditation

May 11, 2020 | HFGather, Inspiration

This morning’s #MondayMeditation with Laurie Calkhoven introduced a different way to meet your character, and touched on how important a character’s name is. As always, she started with a meditation, then gave a writing prompt followed by a Q&A. Thanks, Laurie!

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Full Transcript

George Brown: Laurie Calkhoven called us mid-March, just as the country was shutting down, and offered to do these meditations sessions as a way for us all to come together and try to find some focus in our creative work. These sessions have been great for me. I’ve been incorporating the meditation into my weekly routine, Laurie. And you’re right, you don’t know what’s going to come out of it. But it’s been great. And seeing so many of you who have been here before coming back suggests to me that we are getting you are also getting value from these sessions so thank you for being a part of this with us. Thank you so much for being with us, Laurie. Take it away.

Laurie Calkhoven: Thank you. Alright, I am delighted to be here, this iss my favorite part of my week soI’m really glad you are all showing up to do this with me every week, and as George says, sometimes really surprising things do come up in these meditations. So we’re going to meditate together and then I’m going to lead you through a visualization and give you a writing prompt. And then you’re going to have some that 15 minutes to to write.

Again, I’m going to give you a prompt, but I tell you all kinds of other things are going to come up in that free write period and that’s why I always tell people in these meditations to keep your hand moving after I give you the prompt. Even if you’re blank at the moment, even if you’re just making circles on the page. You’re saying, Gee, I’m blank. Where are all my ideas today? Then, keeping your hand moving allows room for things to bubble up. Surprising things.

And for me, this kind of meditative writing works best writing by hand and a notebook. But if you’re more comfortable on the compute,r by all means use your computer. So we’re going to just go ahead and get started. We are going to do another character meditation today. And this will be a different prompt and a different way to meet our character than than we had last week, if you were here last week and then next week, we’re going to do a plot meditation and then as George said, we’re going to take a break and come back and do other things. So if there’s anything you you really want me to explore in those June sessions, feel free to let me know either by sending me an e-mail on my website or putting it in the Q&A section here later this morning.

So OK, let’s get comfortable and get ready to meditate. You want to sit in a comfortable seat. Try to keep your back fairly straight. You don’t want to be slumped over. I’ve noticed that in when I’m watching the videos, I tend to have my head back a little bit when we’re meditating together and I think that’s because I’m looking through the bottom part of my glasses at the computer screen. So try and hold your head either straight or even turn your gaze downwards and just get comfortable in your seat and let’s go close our eyes and take a deep breath in.

And breathe out and breathe in. And breathe out and just slow and deepen your breathing a little bit. And just check in with your body and see if you’re holding tension anywhere and if you are, you can wiggle that tension out or breathe light into that space to try and get yourself more comfortable. So we’re going to keep up with our deep meditative breathing for the next 12 minutes or so. And let’s all set an intention now that whatever comes up in today’s meditation will be exactly the right thing to come up for you today. So let’s all take another deep breath in. And exhale and breathe in. And raise out and we’re going to continue this for the next 12 minutes.

OK, let’s keep up your deep meditative breathing. And on your next deep breath in, I want you to envision a long light over your head. A long, relaxing, soothing light. And on your next deep breath in, that might come down and touch the top of your head as you’re inhaling and exhaling, that light will come down and cover your eyes and reach the tip of your ears. And then the bottom of your nose and your chin. If you’re feeling it all claustrophobic, this light can be as big as you need it to be. And as you’re breathing in and out, that light is going to come down and reach the top of your shoulders, and cover your torso. This warm, relaxing, soothing light allow yourself to be cocooned by the light as it cascades over you. Down over your hips. And your thighs. And all the way down to the tips of your toes. Just to allow yourself to be cocooned by this warm, relaxing, soothing light.

And on your next deep breath in, notice your character in the distance through the light on the other side of the mist. Allow your character to come closer and closer to you and as your character comes closer, you’ll begin to notice things like the clothes she’s wearing. The object he’s holding in his hand. The way she tilts her head when she’s looking at you or the way he swings his arms when he walks. You begin to notice things like the facial expression. And the way that you know, maybe he has a cowlick sticking up in the back of his head. You’re going to notice more and more details about your character as he or she comes closer.

So your character is 10 feet away, and then five. And now let your characters step into the light with you and come and stand at your side. And if it’s comfortable for you, allow your character to step into your body. If that’s not comfortable, your character can stay by your side and your character is going to tell you something about him or herself that you didn’t already know. Your character has a name. What is it? Is it a nickname? Is it a formal name? What’s your character’s name? Who named your character? How do they feel about their name and what do they think their name says about them?

When you’re ready, open your eyes and begin writing. And remember to try and keep your hand moving on the page. And we’re going to take just one more minute. And if you need to keep writing, feel free to move away from the sound of my voice and keep working on your story or your character.

OK, I’m going to open up for questions and answers. I’m going to close the chat bar because I find that distracting when I’m trying to answer questions, so if you do have a question for me, go down to the Q&A bubble on the bottom of your screen and type your question in there. But before I open up for questions, I wanted to read you the beginning of Chapter 9 from Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello Universe, the Newbery Award-winning book. This is Chapter 9. It’s titled Valencia:
“My name could lead people into battle. Valencia, Valencia, Valencia. Whether you think it or write it on paper, it’s a good, strong name, the name of someone who enters a room and says here I am instead of where are you? Valencia Somerset. Yes, it’s a good name. Mom says they were going to name me Amy, but she took one look at me and saw Valencia. My name is one of the only things that my mother and I agree on.”

If you’ve read Hello Universe, then you know that in this novel names are very important. So often while these meditations don’t often end up in our finished work, they just add to the texture and the richness of our characters. Passages like that about Valencia’s name can can end up in your novel. That’s a case where, again, the character’s name is very important.

So I’m ready to answer any questions you might have. I see there aren’t any yet, but oh, here’s one that popped in and Asked if I ever meditate with my eyes open, perhaps concentrating on a picture. Or seeing an idea board.

I don’t. I think that would be distracting for me in a meditation, but certainly you could try it if that’s something you you’re interested in. You could try it and see what happens. I like to allow images to bubble up in meditation, which is why I don’t like to look at anything. But again, there are no hard and fast rules to this. It’s just trying out things and seeing what works.

Aaron asks, what do you do if your character just isn’t talking to you during the meditation? Well, as I said earlier, for me it’s important to just keep my hand moving and to see what bubbles up and you might even ask your character: “Why aren’t you talking to me? What is it you don’t want to say?” Maybe there’s a reason your character doesn’t want to say whatever they’re not saying out loud, and maybe that’s something you need to explore. But I would just ask your character the question and just keep your hand moving until something does come up. And sometimes it’s another character blocking blocking your main character, and people wanted to speak up for themselves.

Jenna asked: When do you decide to meditate on character versus plot or whatever?” If you’ve been with us from the beginning, I do a lot of character meditations and I do scene meditations. I don’t really use plot meditation, so I’m going to create one for next week and we’ll see how that goes. I use my character meditations when I’m just getting to know my characters. And I have a lot of different prompts that I use soI do that usually at the very beginning of a novel, when I’m just getting started. And I often do it in revision as well, especially for secondary characters. If I find things are not going as smoothly as as I would like, or the secondary characters are not as clear as they should be. I tend to do scene meditations when I’m sitting down to write a big scene. And I do that both in first drafts and in revision. But again, we’re going to try plot meditation next week and see what happens.

Oh, Ria has a question for George about, uh, critique? So he’ll come on. He’ll come on later and answer that question for you.

Maria asked. Do you ask the character more questions while in the exploration, or just let them reveal things as long as they’re revealing things. I just try and get down what they’re telling me. But if if I reach a low and I feel like I haven’t gotten all the information I want, I might ask more questions. Or I might turn to another writing prompt. So again, our characters, even though we create them, they tend to respond with some really surprising things when we get out of our own way and let them speak.

Thornton says his character tends to end up lying face down on the floor as as she is a mermaid. Is there a way to avoid that with character? You might want to find out why your character is lying down on the floor even though she’s a mermaid. She must, there must be other things she wants to do. So yeah, what is she trying to avoid? Why is she lying down on the floor with her face hidden?

Paula asks: What do you do if these meditations lead you to identify what could be big questions and they send you off into discovery? Because that just happened. I might be writing all day now. Thanks.

Well, I think when that happens you should celebrate. I would jump up and down and maybe even throw yourself a parade. Because that’s wonderful when those things happen. So I would just enjoy it and go if you can. Write all day, write all day.

Nancy said she had a great experience with her lead character moving inside her, she was full of compassion and was pleased to reveal so much information. That’s great. You know we create our characters with the same time. We’re like trying so hard to get to know them. So this is one way to do that.

Judy asked: Can the character be involved with several of other characters? Yes, certainly. And certainly seeing your character is going to be involved with several other characters. You know,in writing about your character’s name. You know, maybe that name bounces off the other characters in the novel or the story, and you need to figure out how. How that works. So certainly if other characters come up and and want to make themselves heard, that’s great.

Thank you to our faculty for this Guest Post!

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