Monday, November 22, 2010

On characters and plot and writing

What I'm Writing: In the Shadow of Olympus
What I'm Reading: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (wow, just wow)
What I'm Knitting: Still working on those darned mittens 12 of 14 mittens done

Throwing myself so fully into Nano this year helped me remember why I love to write, and why I should never, ever stop writing. There's such a thrill to be had from weaving a story, letting your subconscious out to play and guide you, meeting new people through your characters, and testing your boundaries along the way.

It's magical, at least to me.

Weaving a story: Where else (other than sims games, perhaps) are you so free to world-build? You can be a god, conducting the lives of your characters, giving them thoughts, and throwing perils into their paths. For me, I start with knowing where I'm starting and where I want to end up and then it's a whole lot of thinking and trying and rethinking and retrying from there. And, yes, since I'm building my own world, from the ground up, really, I set the rules, but I always must make sure what happens in the story sticks to those rules - if it doesn't, well, then no one's going to believe. For my Nano novel, I've completely changed my plot (though it still starts and ends in the same place) three times. I am now within 10000 words of the end of my first draft and very happy with how the story arc went. I'll have a lot of work to do filling in holes, fluffing up descriptions, dropping hints, etc., when I rewrite (not to mention the gruesome SPaG errors that will rear their ugly heads), but the bones are there.

Letting my subconscious out to play: Well, I suppose since it's the subconscious, it's never really 'out,' but boy do I notice the inner workings of my brain more when I'm writing than I do at any other time. How weird does that sound? If I have a plot hole I need filled, I think on it for a while and then let it go - the answer comes sooner rather than later. And one other thing that I adore - and it's happened to me, I think, with every manuscript I've ever written - I'll throw some detail in at the beginning - something for atmosphere, perhaps, that is not meant to have a bearing on the book. Usually something that I think I may cut out later. But in later chapters, I'll have a use for that 'thing.' It'll somehow become necessary and important. And I smile and pat my subconscious on its... um... back(?) and feel like, for a moment, I'm queen of the world.

Characters: I hear authors talk about how their character did something wholly unexpected that changed the direction of their book. For non-authors, this might sound silly, a bit demented, really. So, Ms. Tripp, the characters of your book are talking to you? How long has this been going on, hmmmm? But really, it happens. As an author, I strive to get to know my character: how they think and react, what makes them tick, what their past, present, and future are like. When this is done thoroughly and you know who exactly you're writing, then they do, in a way, tell  you how the story should go. If I'm in a good groove of writing, I'm sometimes completely surprised by what a character says or does, but when I think about it, I realize it fits, and usually gives the book a twist I hadn't been planning - gives me a fresh perspective. It happened in this year's nanonovel - although instead of a character I'd been writing surprising me (which they have), this was a character I hadn't developed suddenly showing up (literally popped into my scene, but that's allowed in the world I've built) and became my MCs sidekick. I absolutely adore him. Love it when something like that happens - and again it comes back to the subconscious working away.

Testing Boundaries: The Can I? Should I? questions should be thrown out the window when you're writing. You can and you should write whatever it feels like the story needs for it to be told. You can worry, on editing, if you've gone too far, but if it feels right, then usually it is. In a blog post before Nano, I asked a question about racism in MG novels. As I dove into the world of my characters, I used words and phrases I though I'd avoid. I put in situations that are uncomfortable. I'll decide, later on, if they need to be toned down, but I'm hoping, really, they don't. For what is a good story, really, if it doesn't make us think and react.

For those writers out there - how do you write? Do your characters drive your story?
For non writers - what makes a good read, a good character?

I'd love to know what you think.

No comments:

Post a Comment