Oh, no. I’ve been avoiding this one, and almost put the card back. I’ve had opportunities for my character to Get Physical, and I’ve immediately gone another direction. Other characters in this NaNoWriMo novel-in-progress “got physical.” In fact, Jim is still in the hospital after being beaten. But my main character? No. Has she hit anyone? Of course not. Get Physical. I know that can refer to more than a beating, but there are a couple reasons Nonny might hurt someone. Self defense, of course, but also sticking up for someone, like Daphne maybe, her developmentally disabled friend, though other terms were used for the Daphnes of the world back then. And even those other unspeakable-to-my-picture-book-audience-ears ways of getting physical. This novel takes place in north central Minnesota in 1970. It’s got to be in there. Get Physical. Especially when it’s not wanted.
Another way we tend to not Get Physical in our writing, where it’s absolutely necessary, is when we’re talking about emotions. No more telling us what emotion your character is feeling. If you’ve said a word that is a kind of emotion (sad, mad, frustrated…), try showing us what your character is feeling by the physical sensations in their body instead. Get Physical. Be your character, feel what they’re feeling. How does it feel in your chest, head, stomach, scalp, neck, arms…? You might be feeling it yourself, but your reader won’t feel it unless you include the actual physical qualities your character is feeling. You get it. And when the feeling is crucial to your story, add imagery. To what would your character compare that feeling?
If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this month, you may have recently hit a slump. The first week, I was at my novel before doing anything else. Okay, I lied. I ate breakfast. This week I see what can distract me, what must be way more important than writing, and I watch the clock tick along. I even rationalize that NaNoWriMo is an arbitrary thing. It’s not natural to write a first draft of a novel in a month. In fact, maybe this is just another vehicle for being competitive and I’d be better off if I didn’t make the goal. If I didn’t feed that part of me. I’m especially proud of that excuse.
My old procrastination motivation eventually kicks in. It was well-trained during college years, and I just consider it part of my process. It’s not laziness, it’s incubation time. When things don’t make sense and I don’t know what to do with them, I do nothing, knowing it will become more clear all on its own. Be gentle with yourself. It’s okay to lag a little behind here and there. You’ll catch up. Stop and dream about future scenes. List them if that helps. And then pick one and start.
If that doesn’t help, Get Physical yourself. No, don’t beat up someone or do something absurd that’s going to destroy your reputation. Take a walk. Dance. Go work out.
Be aware of your body today. Be aware of your character’s body. And if this is too much to think about as you crank out your words, then remember to do a round of revision later with just this in mind. Get Physical.