Journalling gives you an insight into your self, into your thoughts, and even how you think. It helps you – no matter what format it comes in – to get to know yourself better, and work through your issues.
I am going to focus on daily diary type journals for the purpose of this particular blog. This whole series is like a working project for me, I am literally working through everything I talk about here, trying to develop my own characters for my novel. I hope that some of what I learn along the way will help you (and me) craft better characters.
I started writing my first diary in January 1993 – I got it for Christmas ’92. I was 5. I literally have hundreds of journals. I wrote for over a decade, infact, I wrote until I was 18 when I met one of my ex’s. Who was a particularly nasty and abusive person. I didn’t realise for a long time afterwards why I had stopped writing when I met him. It wasn’t until I picked up my journal again that I understood why I had stopped writing. When I journal, I open the doors to a level of honesty I can only share with that page. I am so honest about my feelings and thoughts that sometimes I don’t even want to know the truths I’m writing. So I write them all down and hide them away in diaries so that no one can see what I really think or feel, not even me. If I had written a journal when I was with this person, I would have realised much sooner they were abusing me. But I wasn’t ready, so I gave up writing. To this day I still can’t look at my journals, they are locked away in a big trunk in the loft getting musty and mouldy!
Why am I telling you this? Well, when we create characters, we need that level of depth, and self awareness about our characters in order to create something readers can feel with and feel for. We need to know what our characters don’t want to admit to themselves. We need to know their deepest truth, the things that scare them and why, we need to know what they want to tell their friends and family, but even more important, we need to know what they DON’T want their frends and family to know. We need that insight into how they feel about themselves, and their actions.
The thing about journal entries, is, its not prose, not like a fiction story. It’s a stream of consciousness, a thought process laid bare. It is raw emotion, subjective, biased feeling. You don’t have to worry about dialogue or excessive description or being perfect with grammar. Unless your an English teacher, or thats how your character thinks, you just need to be in their head and lay their consciousness out on the page.
What am I suggesting?
Take your protagonist and/or antagonist and write a journal entry for each of them about the same day? Choose the day carefully, think about the plot, and either a) where you could do with developing the plot more, or the characters, b) a day where something significant happens, or c) a day when something emotive happens to your character.
You may never need to use the journal entry in your novel or story, or, you might! But what it will definitely do is help you to bring a depth to your stories, it will help you to understand better how your character reacts to events, and emotions.
I’ve chosen C. I am going to write about the day my main character (Eden) gets her first kiss (she’s 17). The problem is, this kiss seals a truth in her mind she didnt want to know. The person she loves (who kisses her) is lying to her.
Let me know if you do a journal entry and whether or not it helped.
Eden’s Journal. 5th quarter of Siren Summer, in the Ancient Forest.