Tension is arguably the most essential aspect of any story worth writing and writing worth reading. Authentic tension connects us to the characters, and we invest our time and effort into knowing how their journeys will pan out. As writers, we create setups at the story's beginning and reveal payoffs throughout, without losing tension until the satisfying ending. When I started my writing career in screenwriting, the instructor said to write what I know. After all, I'm the "expert" of my own experiences. In this article, I would like to touch on two ways that journaling can enhance your writing and help you develop and grow as a writer.
Apart from the more well-known reasons why journaling is essential for mental, physical and spiritual well being, it is also a valuable tool in the writer's toolbox for character development. Journaling allows us to gain a deeper understanding of self by exploring what lies beneath the surface and bringing those thoughts, emotions and events to the surface.
Free-form journaling is helpful to the writer to jot down themes, ideas and let the creativity just flow. There is no set structure for free journaling, and it can be done digitally or with a pen on paper. Usually, this method works well to streamline ideas and get a basic understanding of the character. This writing style is also valuable for reflection, like reading back diary entries of previous thoughts and ideas. These entries could also be used in epistolary fiction and add another dimension to the story or a more intimate look at the character's development.
Example of a journal entry for Character Development:
I'm no longer going to do what other people expect of me. I wonder what my parents would say if they heard me now? How would they react to this gipsy life I desperately desire? But, wait a minute, I have no parents; I forgot that for a moment - SAD. Find a new word for sad. It's totally overused and abused.
Example of a free journaling prompt for Writer Development:
Today I didn't feel like writing much. There is just too much going on at the moment. I feel like I've reached the end of my patience with this noise from the street. But I love writing. It sets my soul on fire. However, IG quote of the day that sounds. What do I want from this life? I want people to read my work, letters, and music that turns to voices on paper. Giddy-up, back to it.
Completing a guided journal allows the writer to delve deep, think outside the box with leading questions and writing prompts. More specifically, a guided journal can create authenticity in the character's journey and steer the writer in the right direction when dealing with a life-altering event. This is one of the best methods to create tension!
As writers, we absorb stories from our everyday lives, and we might know a lot about a particular topic like loss, grief, cancer, infertility and so forth. However, if we haven't experienced it personally, our writing could come across as inauthentic. As writers, our job is to create authentic experiences for our characters with satisfying storylines for the reader and do justice to those who have personally experienced life-altering events.
Another benefit of completing a guided journal specifically designed to deal with trauma (that creates tension) saving time on research. Numerous years and academic experience usually go into creating guided journals, counteracting writer's block. As a writer, completing one of the guided journals as a character will lend efficiency to your writing and validity to the struggles and challenges of the characters. In turn, the readers will keep reading and become invested in how the characters overcame or didn't overcome the life-altering event.
Journaling is a dynamic resource both for the writing profession as well as the self-development of the writer.