Does your writing speak to you? It probably will, if you listen.

When you interact with people in the real world, you may notice their visual cues. For example, if you are explaining something to a co-worker, you might notice they look confused about your instructions. Those of us who have or had romantic relationships could probably guess when our SO was angry, based on their facial expression, verbal tics, or body language.

Today’s exercise is training yourself to recognize these cues in your writing.

Have you experienced this? You’ve sent your main character on their way, and now they’re complaining about everything in their path. Or perhaps your protagonist has a side quest, but now their inner dialogue is a running commentary of all the other – more important – things they should be working on.

Your writing – your subconscious – might be trying to tell you something.

I encountered this several years ago while working on a novel. In one scene, my protagonist’s goal was to take one direction, so I threw in some obstacles that took her the opposite way. As the scene proceeded, my MC demanded to be taken where she wanted to go in the first place and complained loudly about this waste of time.

By the time I finished the scene, I had to agree – yes, this wasn’t the direction she should be going and the entire scene was a waste of time.

The problem? The conflict was inorganic. I had inserted a plot diversion that wasn’t connected to her character or a bad choice on her part, or to the plot in any other way. My MC had the agency to change her course of action at any time during the scene and had more pressing matters to attend to.

Finding the right conflicts and obstacles for the novel involved more work and trial and error. But the wrong choices were evident. In fact, my character – my own voice – was telling me where she wanted to go. I only had to listen.