This week Raincloud author Jenny Jaeckel had an article published on Writer’s Digest. It’s a long piece about writing in-depth characters, called “Bodies, Blind Spots and Quirks.” Here’s an excerpt:
Henry James once wrote, “We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”
And his brother, the philosopher William James wrote, in discussing the activity of the mind and its ready interpretations: “Let a person enter his room in the dark and grope among the objects there.”
In both cases, we might imagine a dark room where the mind is at work, seeking to discover hidden things, learning about a world which is as yet unseen. When writing fiction, creating worlds and plot, I myself am working in the dark room—or sometimes casting fishing lines out into dark lakes—but that process becomes especially intimate when exploring the inner worlds of my characters. The metaphor of the dark room is the most apt for me, rather than, say, molding characters from clay, or building them up with bricks. The characters don’t seem to be my creations so much as people I am trying to get to know.
Stay tuned for more essays from Jaeckel in the coming weeks, some to appear on “Read It Forward,” the online journal.
Jenny Jaeckel is the author of forthcoming House of Rougeaux, a debut historical novel set in the Caribbean, the US and Canada. Publishers Weekly called it a “rich tapestry of a novel” (starred review of the audio version narrated by Bahni Turpin). Available everywhere now for pre-order.