Dec 12, 2011

Words, Deeds, Thoughts

By Tracy Astle

Two recent, seemingly unrelated happenings brought something together for me.

First thing - I read a book and saw a movie (not a movie of the book, but of a different story) that I expected to really like. I had heard good things about both of them and they are genres I usually like a lot. Only this time I didnt. It's not that I hated them or even disliked them, really. They just weren't very satisfying. They didn't draw me in emotionally. I seriously doubt if I'll even remember reading/seeing them a few months from now. I couldn't quite figure out why I felt so meh about them until the second thing happened.

This weekend I enjoyed the feast that is stake conference. So sorry you all weren't there with me. It was Ah-maz-ing. Anyway, at the Saturday evening adult session three of the speakers, who aren't assigned topics by the way, touched on the importance of doing. Let's go on a slight field trip to hear a story one of the the temple presidency told to illustrate this.

"If I told you three frogs sat on a log then one decided to jump off, how many frogs would remain on the log?

Most of you are probably thinking two. Some of you may even be thinking one, although I don't know why. But the answer is three.

Why? Because I said one frog decided to jump off. He didn't actually do it, he just decided to."

End of field trip. We're back now to the other speakers at conference. The fourth speaker, a member of our stake Relief Society presidency, spoke about the importance of our words, more specifically, about the importance of using postive speech. Our stake president then finished up the meeting by telling three stories: one showing the power of our words, the next showing the power our our actions, and the third emphasizing the power of our thoughts. Trust me when I tell you what an impactful speaker my stake president is. His gift of presentation  makes me want to stand up and follow him wherever he leads, much like I imagine I would have felt  had I been blessed to hear King Benjamin or Captain Moroni speak.

For whatever reason, after attending that meeting I realized the reason I didn't connect with that recent book or movie the way I had expected to. It was that I didn't feel the thread running flawlessly from the characters' words which they chose to speak, to their actions which should speak more loudly than their words to clue me into who they really are and what they really want, to their thoughts which I should be able to discern from their words and deeds. 

Too many times when a book or movie feels kind of flat it's because the motivation for the characters' dialog and actions seem to be simply to move the story ahead rather than the story evolving because of the characters' thoughts creating the words and deeds which then create the movement of the story.

I suppose you all may already know this, and so did I to a degree, but it made me really get how important it is to know each and every one of our characters intimately enough to have every scene we write blossom organically from the actions and dialog that spring from the deep seeded thoughts and thought patterns they hold.   

Suzanne Collins does this masterfully. I hope will, too, one day.

Anyone have any tips for how to accomplish this?


  1. I really appreciate your post. The writing class I am attending is plotting a mystery novel and I can see how this concept will drive the story on a deeper level. Thanks!

  2. No tips, but I appreciate your insight. This is something I'm struggling with in my novel right now.

  3. I know the feeling. Lately I've been rather dissatisfied with the movies I've gone to see. Then I saw the new Sherlock Holmes awesome...and why the characters. Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr makes them virtually leap off the stage. That's character development.

  4. I recently listened to an audio book that was that way. I always felt like the author was keeping me at arms length.The plot, and the magic elements had me hooked. The characters were fascinating but I felt the relationship with the characters was formal.


Thank you for visiting. Feel free to comment on our blogger's posts.*

*We do not allow commercial links, however. If that's not clear, we mean "don't spam us with a link to your totally unrelated-to-writing site." We delete those comments.