My sister and I chatted recently about time, and how it seems to slip away so dang fast. The days and weeks move so rapidly that a month has passed before we blink. Many of us don’t have anchors to tie us to this minute, let along this day, but others have a secret weapon. Hers, right now, is a puppy who requires lots of attention and has milestones as she grows into an adult. Children are incredible anchors to the here and now. Serious illness is a less happy anchor in the now.
The past and memories have anchors, too. We use the death of loved ones, graduations, and world tragedies to anchor us to the past. Did this event happen before or after my mom died? How long after?
Emotions are anchors in time. We know exactly where we were and what we felt when the Twin Towers went down with a clarity we don’t have for birthdays or other moments. When a true love leaves, we remember that pain forever.
What does this have to do with writing? Simple. Characters need anchors, too. Emotions, memories, and time should anchor a character in the moment of a scene. If the character’s viewpoint is floating about without an anchor, then the scene fails for the reader.
Even if that character does have a moment of interspection or memories, the reader should know, first, that she’s standing at her back window and staring at the sunset.
Important plot points anchor the past but propel the character forward. Because the lover leaves, the character must choose a new direction because the old direction is gone.
Think to yourself before you write a scene, what are the anchors? If you do, you’ll rarely fail to anchor your reader in your story.