Donald Maass came up to Toronto for a full day workshop this weekend. He'd been here once two years ago and I still have the notebook of scribbles and lightbulb moments I took during that workshop. My memory was that it was magic so I eagerly grabbed my notebooks for this years workshop. And it was magic again - but of recognizable sort.
For those of you who haven't gone to one of his workshops - I highly recommend it. He spends hours and hours helping you create three-dimensional, fully realized characters. His whole methodology seems to me to be about time. He asks you a question about your character, a question that has nothing to do with the plot or about the characters relationship with other people, and then he tells you a story about why that question matters and then, gives you a few minutes to scribble things down. It's the last step that matters.
I give myself lots of time to think about my books - I go for walks, I brain storm, honestly , it feels like weeks before I'm able to actually write. But this kind of time - with no distractions and just asking questions about my characters, going deeper and deeper - I don't do it anymore. And I think it makes a big difference. It's not just about knowing your characters - which for some reason makes me roll my eyes - but it's about being informed about your world.
Last DWT Sinead (after determining that we could kill with our combined strength both Adam Levine and Fassbender (because they are thin little men, not because we are actually murderous) should they happen to walk into Maureen's living room) made the comment that we need more brainstorming. One day of plot work and then another day of character work. And I remember thinking - Good God, why would we kill Adam Levine - and that character thing seems like a luxury.
But then we had the Donald Maass workshop and I'm totally convinced - we need to make time for that luxury.