NaNoWriMo 2015


It’s National Novel Writing Month again… and even though I thought I’d be ready to fully participate this year, I’m not, and I’m sad about it.

Re: the manuscript I’ve been working on for ages…

This manuscript is incredibly personal. Everything about it is wrapped up in who I am and what I’ve seen. That’s not to say that it’s autobiographical. It isn’t. However, it is personal, and there’s a vulnerability in writing what I’ve written.

Also, this may not seem like a big deal, but it’s my first full manuscript. I’ve written tons of first chapters but only one final chapter, and that one final chapter is contained in this manuscript. I’ve written short stories and essays galore, I’ve been starting novels since I was fourteen, but I’ve never put much hope in any of them until my current Work in Progress. I’ve never believed anything would ever come of them.

Additionally, this is the only time I’ve written anything near the realm of Christian Fiction. There’s a weighty responsibility that comes with that. I feel an urgent necessity, that I hate feeling, in writing something that glorifies God. I chose Weston, my character, because I couldn’t imagine a more heart-wrenching conflict than the one I’ve seen in my friends who are both gay and Christians. I thought it was good timing historically for a book about that conflict. I thought it would be easy to sell. Yet, now that it comes down to either publishing it or not, I’ve got a slow-growing fear based in all of the things that drew me to this conflict to begin with. I’m afraid of how the nation is changing, and how my friends are changing. I’m afraid of how difficult it seems to be for people like Weston to hold onto convictions and trust that God has it covered, and even if they don’t get what they want, to refuse to bow down to any claiming the place that belongs only to the Almighty.

Piled on top of that fear is the problem I currently have of perspective. I started out trying to write my manuscript in 3rd person, because it’s an impersonal, analytical way of writing that allowed me to think the story instead of feeling it. There’s this strange thing that happens in the writer’s mind, where characters are real. It would be impossible for me to write a great story without suspending my disbelief at least as much as I want my readers to suspend theirs, so Weston is a real person to me. I have emotions towards him that only find their match in my relationships to real people. I feel affection, disappointment, anger, and hope for him and for the other characters in his life – Madison, Riley, Dave… all of them. That’s super difficult, because it’s my job to push these people through to most difficult parts of their lives.

I would prefer to do that in 3rd person, even though that wasn’t the right choice for this story.

Alongside the emotions of it, writing in 1st person has a ton of complications because the story is not about what happened. Rather, it’s about what one person thought happened. A narrator who is living the story is almost never going to be 100% reliable, and my character is particularly unreliable because she’s young, foolish, and confused. She’s emotionally invested to the extent that she can’t see straight. The result of telling the story this way is hours – nay, HOURS and HOURS and HOURS – of trying to figure out how a person can tell a story exactly as she experienced it without communicating only what she experienced. Ideally, Madison would tell her story honestly and without concern for the reader, but I’d be skilled enough to communicate to the reader through Madison – that I’d show bits and pieces that Madi didn’t see, or saw falsely.

It’s painstaking work.

Also, I decided to rewrite the entire ending of my story. I got one of those epiphanies that hit at the strangest times, when the muse speaks, and what needs to be written becomes clear. And yet, it’s a ton of work rewriting the entire ending – especially because I did my best to weave the ending into every chapter of the book so that readers could look back and be all mind-blown at the clues that were there all along.

So… where I find myself now is at the end again, rewriting and trying to be intentional about the level of satisfaction I bring to readers… or not. It would be easy for me to wrap everything up nicely and tie it with a bow for readers. OR it would be easy for me to wrap nothing up and leave readers bewildered to figure it out for themselves. Probably, the right thing to do is somewhere in the middle of those.

Finally, the actual news of this post is that I’ve recently been put in touch with an editor who may actually be able to help me, without costing me a boatload of cash, which means I need to get myself in gear pretty quickly here and not let this opportunity pass.

BUT…

All I want to do is start a brand-new manuscript that I can write in the detached voice of an omniscient 3rd person narrator. I want it to be an absurd dark comedy/social commentary about public education, and I want to be in the planning stage rather than this editing and perfecting stage that I have to be in with Weston’s story.

AaaaaaaHhhhhhhh!

I love NaNoWriMo… next year, I guess.

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Great Characters


“What is certainly true of all great characters is they are larger-than-life. I do not mean that they are unrealistic. Quite the contrary. What is mean is they act, speak and think in ways you or I most of the time cannot, or at any rate do not. They say the things we wished we had said. They do things we dream about doing. They feel feelings authentically and without turning away…

Again, I do not mean great fictional creations provide only shallow fantasy fulfillment; rather, I mean they express for us our greatest purposes and our deepest desires. They are us. That is the reason we identify with them.” 

Donald Maas Writing the Breakout Novel p. 38

Obsession with People I Don’t Actually Like


Have you ever noticed that it’s far easier to think about someone with whom you completely disagree? Sometimes, I absolutely despise a person because of what his life represents, the words that come out of his mouth, his complete lack of self-awareness… and yet, I really enjoy thinking about him.

🙂

According to Anne Perry, “Being likeable and being compelling are not necessarily the same thing.” (Foreword to WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL).

Thus, let us tip our glasses to the folks fictional and non- who are altogether too interesting to completely abandon, but also big enough jackasses that we’d never consider them friends.

The WHY Dilemma


I’ve been writing again, which is great, but I’ve rejoined my manuscript only to find that the same problems it had when I left off are still problems. The primary one I’m focused on right now is character motivation.

In my story, an incredibly clever, fun, beautiful girl from a good family REALLY likes someone it doesn’t make sense for her to like, and I’m not sure how to solve this problem.

My first instinct was to reveal something in the past that made her like him… even though it seems like he’s an idiot who she could never have true affections for, maybe there’s something more to him than we’ve seen. This is my favorite solution to the problem because it overcomes a few additional problems with their friendship, including the fact that they don’t have much positive chemistry (they’re awkward together) and they don’t have anything in common. Also, she’s not driven completely by emotions, and this solution offers the opportunity to involve her mind in the attraction.

My lazy instinct is to say that she can’t control who she likes. It doesn’t matter how smart she is or how wrong the match is, we sometimes love people we oughtn’t to love and there’s no reason or logic to it. She loves him because she does.

The problem with ALL solutions is that they either elevate his character or degrade hers. Every time I try to write a moment where she sees something deeper and valuable in him, it makes him seem lovable; it makes him into a secretly good guy… and he isn’t. He’s a mess in the he-needs-therapy sort of way. He’s a depressed partier who can’t seem to get a break in life and just makes his own situation worse by his foolishness and uncontrollable emotions. So I can’t make him it seem like he’s redeemable. It ruins the story if he’s redeemable. And she loses some of her credibility and lovability if she loves someone who is unredeemable.

Now… when I take this into real life, it’s completely plausible to me that she would be an amazing girl in love with an idiot. The question is how to make it plausible in the story.

So I thought I’d start by polling you good people…

Why do amazing people fall in love with wretched ones? Is it the way they look? Is it a desire to redeem them? Is it impossible to answer this question? Have you ever loved an unredeemable person? Why did you love him or her?

I Won’t Kill Carth. You Can’t Make Me!


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic PC box ...

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic PC box cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like video games. Okay – mostly I like the story lines, because they give me a particularly dynamic CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE book experience. I like that my choices affect the outcome of the story and that I can lead my characters to good ends.

My favorite video game of ALL TIME is Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR). It’s pre-STAR WARS films and gives players the epic task of saving the republic (or bringing it to its knees). The first time I played, I was a female scout fighting for the light side of the force. I got to hang out with the tragically perfect Carth Onasi, I fell madly in love with him, and we worked together to rescue the republic from Lord Malak… and we lived happily-ever-after. The second time I played, I decided to keep everything the same except that I’d play for the dark side to find out how the story line changed. I hung out with Carth, fell madly in love with him, got separated from him for a bit (because he’s light-side all the way… what a guy, right?), defeated Lord Malak and usurped his position at the head of an infinite fleet of ships at my command… then Carth came back to try to turn me back to the light so that we could be together forever. Awwwww, he loves me. Problem: no matter how I worked that conversation, there was no option for me to turn back to the light. I couldn’t find a way to be with Carth.

!

I sat and stared at the screen in stunned silence.

I’d just played something ridiculous like 45 hours of the game with the sole purpose of discovering the dark-side story arc… and I wouldn’t be able to see the end unless I killed Carth.

So you know what I did?

I turned the XBOX off and never discovered the ending.

Kill Carth? Yeah right. I’m in love with Carth.

But you know what?

Now that I’m revising my manuscript, I’m starting to understand why there wasn’t an option to run off with Carth and live happily-evil-after. You see, Carth’s character throughout the game was light side… and for 45 hours or so I’d cultivated an all-dark character he was in love with. In order for us to end up together, one of us would have had to IMPOSSIBLY, dramatically, deeply change. Carth and Kate couldn’t be together in this version of the story because the rules of the world were set and couldn’t be altered.

Shutting off the XBOX was a very unwriterly thing for me to do.

Writers do mean-spirited, crappy things to their characters all the time. We throw them into arenas with people who’re trying to kill them, we pit them against bad guys who killed their parents, we bash, bludgeon, betray, befuddle and in all other ways ruin their lives. WRITERS FORCE KATE TO KILL CARTH.

And it sucks, but that’s what writing is.

I got a critique back of my first three chapters last week, and I found myself trying to protect my characters rather than having them do the things they would do. I want my characters to be safe, but Crit. Buddy Ben pointed out the obvious.

“Angus wouldn’t do that. He’d fight.”

But if Angus fights, he’s going to get messed up. They’ll hurt him.

Those were my thoughts. How very motherly of me, eh? I was making Angus do the thing I’d have him do, but in reality, there probably isn’t a single kid in the world who wouldn’t fight or at least run if put in the situation Angus was in.

I didn’t have it in me to kill Carth… do I have what it takes to beat Angus up? I know he’s fictional, but do I really have to write that? 🙂

*I’ve republished this post. It originally went up more than a year ago, but I thought it was good enough for an encore. 🙂