When I first worked out the way that the shadows in a character inform the story (or the plot, if you have one), I didn’t realize that I had run across the ideas before. I know now that a big part of my inspiration came from a Writer’s Digest blog by Jeff Merke that began with a section on “The Inner Journey” and talked about the character’s “knot”, meaning the flaw or weakness they have to overcome.* I liked this post so much I copied it, but then couldn’t relate the advice to my own process at all. Merke wrote as if he could choose what his characters did, and who they were — he even knew what they needed! — where I tend to find and follow mine. So I “forgot” that the idea of character flaws propelling the story was not mine until I came across the post again, saved in a file. At this point I realize that I’ve read other writing advice about character flaws and the character’s need to change being crucial to story arc. But the idea felt like mine because I had to experience it on my own before it meant anything.
Which maybe says something about writing advice. Or the way some of us learn.
*Jeff Merke must have been a guest editor for Brian Klems’s blog that week. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find Jeff Merke or this particular post to link to. But here’s the blog, called The Writer’s Dig.