Jan Bowman

Entry # 208 – Turning Character Inside/Out

Hawaii – April 2013 – Jan Bowman
This week I am exploring the evolution of a character in a story I am writing, looking for that organic moment in events when everything changes. So I returned to my craft reading to reread for inspiration an excellent essay by Megan Staffel, “In the Garden: Revealing a Character in a Moment of Change” found in A Kite in the Wind: Fiction Writers on Their Craft. As I distill the most useful ideas that apply to my current story, I am struck by Staffel’s observations that modern fiction moves beyond Aristotle’s Poetics that focused upon tragedy. She says that “fiction in the twenty-first century has a different purpose and our generalizations look more like this: Art Imitates Life and Character determines plot, whether it’s simple or complex.”
Hawaii – April 2013 – Roof Gardens – Jan Bowman
Staffel paraphrases sections from scholar Gerald Else’s work on Aristotle’s Poetics: The Argument (1963), in which Else, (358) says, “A recognition is a change from ignorance to knowledge. It’s recognizing, a remembering of something you already knew. . . And that moment causes an unexpected shift, a reversal of expectations.” The resulting shift or reversal leads to a new understanding. 
Staffel says that “. . . if we show the movement from inside to outside, subjective to objective, we can portray this moment (of change/knowledge) in a fluid, believable, and entirely contextual manner that introduces insight without contrivance.”  
The writer then is trying to show an invisible event, a moment of insight or recognition that takes place in the mind of the character and/or the reader. This is not easy to do well and that seems to separate the good stories from the great stories I read.
Hawaii April 2013 – Jan Bowman
As a reader I look for these moments in the fiction I read. As a writer – if I am lucky – I discover these moments sometimes after-the-fact. After I have written and rewritten for weeks – until I find I have written my way into the kind of person who fails to realize or comes to realize something new, something startling, something true. Then I am left with the task of doing this in a fluid, believable, organic way and this is a skill I continue to learn.
About Jan Bowman
Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, Jan’s stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, and a Pen/O’Henry award.  Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers.
A recent story was a finalist for the 2013 Broad River Review RASH Award for Fiction, another story was a 2013 finalist in the Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest.  Jan’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others.   She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection, Mermaids & Other Stories.  She has nonfiction publications in Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at: www.janbowmanwriter.com or  visit blog:  http://janbowmanwriter.blogspot.com

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