At this salon, we explored why it’s important to make our characters’ lives difficult and messy. We also talked through various kinds of conflict and tension, and about why having a perfect, well-mannered character is boring. Natalie also taught us to let our characters get in trouble and discover how messing things up for them is what will keep readers glued to the page!
“I think it’s essential that girls and young women believe their stories matter and understand the power of their voices.” —Natalie Baszile
Prompt #1: Left Unsaid
Write about a time, real or imagined, when you really wanted something but you (or someone else) stopped yourself from getting it.
What did you say? How did you act? What do you wish you’d said? How do you wish you would have behaved?
Prompt #2: The Other Side
Imagine the same scene from before but from the other person’s point of view.
What were they thinking? How were they feeling? Why didn’t they want you to have what you wanted?
Prompt #3: A Crucible
Think of a crucible (a car, a bathroom, a plane, an elevator, a boat) and write a scene where the two characters you wrote about earlier can’t escape.
Challenge: Make them get into an argument, but they don’t start out yelling at each other. Have the scene start off slowly, like they’re trying to get along, and then turn up the heat and the pressure.
Natalie Baszile is the author of Queen Sugar, which is being adapted for a fifth television season by Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey. Natalie’s new nonfiction book We Are Each Other’s Harvest: Celebrating African American Farmers, Land & Legacy, is forthcoming from HarperCollins (April 2021). Natalie is a resident at SFFILM where she is working on a number of projects including GOOD PEOPLE, a narrative film adapted from her novel-in-progress. Natalie has had residencies at Ragdale Foundation, VCCA, Hedgebrook and Djerassi where she was the SFFILM and Bonnie Rattner Fellow. Her nonfiction work has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, Lenny Letter, The Bitter Southerner, National Geographic and numerous anthologies. Natalie lives in San Francisco with her family.