Today is the first day of International Fake Journal Month 2010. Many of you may already have completed your journal page for today. I know I have. And I look forward to checking out the links to people's blogs where they have already posted their page from today. (I will be putting up a list of links this weekend for you all to check out.)
If you haven't already started your fake journal and feel a little nervous about how to begin then keep the Latin phrase in medias res in mind to guide you. It means, "in the middle, in the midst of affairs." It's the best way to start your fake journal.
Why? Because it mimics the natural way to keep a journal and it translates to the fake the best. Don't explain. Don't write extensive backstory. Don't write the obvious.
Here's why: your character already knows who his Aunt Jo is. If you are going to write extensive explanatory information about Aunt Jo there needs to be a reason your character would do that. He maybe has never met Aunt Jo? Or he has some odd memory problem? Perhaps. But that's getting pretty complicated.
Resist the urge to get complicated—especially if this is your first fake journal. These past weeks when I've been writing about just jumping in, well I actually meant that literally.
Your character is writing NOW, journaling NOW. So what goes on the page needs to be in first person and about the now. Of course facts about the character's past are going to flow up onto the pages, just as those facts make an appearance in our own journals—but dole them out. You'll have way more fun in April if you let these details pop up throughout your journal instead of burdening yourself with writing copious notes every day—and trying to remember all that.
Speaking of remembering:
If you're like me and have 20,000 other things going on in your life (or maybe you have 50,000 things going on in your life, then you really need to pay attention to this bit) you might want to keep a little pad of paper on hand to jot things down like the names of people who crop up in the fake journal during April.
If your character writes or sketches about Milly on page one, you might want to write down "Milly 1" on your pad. And then note: son's 1st grade teacher (or whatever). Leave a little space and if Milly comes up again you can add to the list. That way you can be consistent throughout the month without having to reread everything and find some odd little reference.
Of course you can wing it without a little reminder pad. Maybe your character has BSE and he's always calling the same person by different names—and that's part of your character's charm. But I recommend you have a reminder pad. It makes participation faster and less stressful. You do have your real journal to attend to don't you?
And yes, the first time your character writes about Milly in his life he would give some background information—my point is that your character wouldn't give background information on EVERYTHING, not all at once. You can parcel it out.
In 2009 to start my fake journal the first page coincides with my character's arrival at a new place, after a tiring trip on which her supplies were lost. This immediately sets up an excuse or reason for her to be working in the book she's working in, with the materials she ends up using. We don't know anything else about her.
She is also accustomed to keeping a journal and so she only gives the briefest of mentions of someone who will later become very important to her. And she writes down random thoughts in her journal, based on what she is drawing and seeing in front of her: wild turkeys.
The revealing of information in a natural flow is one of the ways you can have some fun with your fake journal—and discover things about the author you might not have realized at the start.
You can find interesting ways to show any readers what your character's job, preoccupations, likes, dislikes, etc. are in oblique ways. Again, it increases your fun factor. And if the fun factor is high the likelihood that you'll keep working in your fake journal through April increases!
Of course you don't have to have a narrative strain in your fake journal. I'll say more about that in the coming days. But if your journal keeper is wired that way, and he is keeping a journal with text, then you might want to consider these points.
And then, remember, JUMP RIGHT IN.
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