For the past few weeks, I've been down-sizing my email. I got tired of deleting (or, more typically, ignoring) dozens of messages each day from political groups, charities, retail establishments, community groups and yes, even writers whose newsletters I had signed up for more to support them than because I cared about the content.
The only one I kept was my subscription to Lisa Cron's newsletter. She's the author of Wired for Story. This fascinating book describes how humans have evolved to love stories because they helps us to survive. It explained to me why the negative character arcs that I've wanted to write are so unsatisfying to readers, it taught me why friends aren't the best critique partners and how useful story is in daily life.
Now, every Friday, its what I read before my morning writing, and somehow the topic is always exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. This morning's post was about writing an Origin Scene. The first line made me think she was referring to the opening scene or the inciting incident, but I quickly realized it was something else. Something new to me. It is what happened long ago to give the character the wound, or flaw, that the current story is going to resolve.
I already knew that my main character believed she couldn't survive on her own, and had a vague background to establish this, including that her mom was disabled and ended up dependent on her husband. The post this morning, however, encouraged us to write the moment when the character first comes to this belief.
Here's my stream of consciousness, un-edited, first try. It's not first person (as recommended) but just brainstorming. As I wrote it, I realized that 'not being able to survive alone' was too strong, so I narrowed it to include a gender bias (because it comes in conflict with her husband).
As a teenager, Rosemary was out working on their farm, when a hard rain storm came in. A flash flood stranded her on a hill, and her mom came out looking for her. Early enough in her multiple sclerosis that she would still try to help (she just had a cane). Being scared that the water would continue to rise, her mother tried to wade in after her and got swept in, but immediately stuck in a branch on a side eddy. Rosemary's screams drew the attention of her step-father and he came to their rescue, fishing out the mother and finding a plank for Rm to walk across to safety. Mom got sick/injured and that was really the end of her functionality--was in a wheel-chair after that. She and step-father made it clear that she'd made a mistake and should have gone to him for help. Rm internalized that she should find a man to help, not try to save herself.
By the way, the other subscriptions I kept are to C. R. Hodge's blog (because he provides frequently updated lists of publishing markets), the publisher Tor's newsletter (because I have contact with an agent there) and The Nelson Literary Agency (because it is a local agency which provides insider tips to authors).