GET IN MY BELLY

HOW TO CREATE THE DEEP EXPERIENCES THAT A CHARACTER NEEDS

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The “belly of the whale” experience is a biblical reference that alludes to when a character named Jonah doesn’t listen to his God and he gets swallowed by a big fish. The bible doesn’t say if it was a whale, but the common belief is that it was. When Jonah accepts God’s terms, the whale vomits Jonah up on shore. Then Jonah successfully completes his task.

I believe every work should have the “belly of the whale” experience (I’m going to clarify one thing in just a bit. Be patient haha). There must be a sense that your character resists the thing that he is destined to do and circumstantially is pushed to his ultimate low.

From this low, he springs into his fate like he never would have if he hadn’t been “swallowed by the whale.” For Will Smith, in The Pursuit of Happiness, he lives in the whale’s belly. Everything that he does fails. Failure after failure drills him into the ground.

This experience could be a place that your character goes where she meets people who push her out of her circumstances. Or it could just be that she turns away from the mission, but then something yanks her back into it.

Whatever it is, use it wisely, because it should be the lowest of lows. Your character needs to be vomited out of this experience, just like Jonah, so that your character can complete her mission with the insight needed to overcome.

Now here’s the “thing” that I wanted to mention. You may have a “mountain top” experience if you’re writing a tragedy. If you do, take them as high as you can. Take them up 32,000 feet and drop them from a plane. Make it hurt. This happens beautifully in Seven Pounds with Will Smith. I won’t spoil it. Go see that movie!

The whale or the mountain should mark youR book. It has to be that place, that if your character had not gone, then the ending would not have been as satisfying…or devastating.

We, as your readers, want to travel with character on whatever journey she is on, whether it’s down in the depths or to the highest height!

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4 thoughts on “GET IN MY BELLY

    1. William Stadler Post author

      Thanks, Maria. And yes. Religious or not, sending our characters through the wringer brings them out cleaner 🙂

      Reply

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