Archive for the ‘characters’ Category

Words Per Minute

February 4, 2010 Comments off

It must mean something that I am far more excited each day to write my novel than I am to write for this blog. It’s a bit of a stretch coming up with pithy commentary each day, especially after I’ve already cramped my phalanges with an hour of storytelling.

I planned to write this blog because I thought it would help me get the most out of the writing process, though, so I do not want to abandon this piece of the effort. The point of this blog is metacognition. I’ve waited too long to start writing. I have had stories in my head for years and have always found a way to put off writing them. Having found the motivation to finally begin, I feel like I need to expedite my growth as a writer by publicly sharing what the writing process does and means to me.

So this is what I’ve got for today:

All in all it was a good one.  I only wrote 500 words or so, but I crafted a fun scene and got through some tough dialogue.

I sat down to write this novel with no outline, but with a very good sense of the overall plot arch in my head. I knew the main characters (though not their names), I knew the general structure the story would follow, and I knew the key points of conflict and climax. I chose not to write a rigid outline, because I wanted the narrative to develop organically and to get a real sense of who I am as a writer. That paid off for the first time a few hours ago.

That was when I found that the story has taken an exciting turn. I reached a point in the plot I had not foreseen – a point that makes perfect sense and helps develop all three of my main characters while at the same time defining the conflicts between them. It’s also a point of increased action – fast-paced and intense – one of those parts of a book that as a reader I fly through and re-read to be sure I got it all.  It was an un-planned scene, and it was fun to write.

It was an interesting day as a storyteller. My greatest frustration was that I couldn’t type fast enough to keep up with the ideas in my head.  I know that that can’t continue every day, but if I had never started this project, today would never have happened.


One Hell of a Truck

February 2, 2010 Comments off

It’s a concern for me that my writing seems plausible, natural, organic. I enjoy reading most when it transports me and allows me to be pulled into the story. When a detail is overly contrived or a turn of phrase does not ring true, the magic ends, I’m an editor again, and the story loses any sense of flow.

Something that’s been central to my life in the week since I’ve started writing in earnest is that I try to be observant. I try to note the details that can define a person: the food in someone’s shopping cart at the grocery store, the body language as a couple waits in line at the movies, the car someone drives. This awareness of the people around me has helped my writing. I’ve been able to adeptly define my characters by showing, not telling.

That’s not to say that I have complete confidence in my use of those significant defining details. I strive to avoid being trite and I make it a point of emphasis to avoid clichés, but second and third readings still raise more red flags than I’d like. That chips away at my confidence.

My confidence got a bit of a boost today, because of my new observational practices. A white Chevy Silverado raced past me as I was driving my son to his piano lesson. The truck swerved in front of me, caking my windshield in a layer of muddy, salty February road sludge. I cursed under my breath as I flicked on the wipers. A glance at the offending truck once the windshield was clear turned my anger into amusement, though. The truck had a custom vanity license plate that read simply, “SATAN.”

I couldn’t help but smile. Even the worst of writers would shy away from a blatant character sketch such as a “SATAN” license plate. The world truly is stranger than fiction. A good faith effort on my part will produce a plausible and readable story. I need to have faith that there are readers out there for me.

The Name’s the Thing

January 30, 2010 Comments off

I have a problem. I’m loathe to even write about it, because it feels very much like a rookie mistake. A mistake that any half-decent literary agent who happens to stumble upon this blog will see and will instantly use as an excuse to label me as a no talent hack.

I can’t name my characters.

I sit down to write and get moving along and freeze up as soon as a new person walks on stage. No one has a name that fits. A big part of the problem, I think, is that I’m a teacher. Any name I think of I immediately associate with some past student. I project their traits out onto my character, I fear that they’ll actually somehow read what I’m writing some day and will see that I’ve written them into the story.

The same thing happened when my wife and I had to name our children. The problem then was doubled; she was a teacher too. Names we had long thought of as not being all that bad – maybe names we would have settled on for our son – were forever spoiled because of that one kid with ADHD that I had third hour two years ago, or that girl whose mom never blinked – not once! – during parent/teacher conferences.

In the end, we were able to name our kids. People like our kids’ names. They fit. The problem for me is that finding a name for them was a months-long process. I’m nowhere near as attached to the characters I’m writing about as I am to my own children of course, but naming them is proving to be just as hard. I ask my wife about it, I try to project different names onto my characters as I go through the day. I can’t take months on this process.

I keep going back to the idea that writing breeds writing. I have settled on opening a website and using the first name I see. If I go back and change the name later, no problem. But maybe the characters will grow into their names.

Maybe it’s not worth all this fuss.