Character rising

This is an interesting blog entry on what the writer calls “Self-rising characters”–characters who weren’t in the original outline or conception of a story, or who were but were minor at best, who become (spontaneously) fully realized as you are writing because the story needed them, or at the very least, they were a voice inside you somewhere that needed to speak:

Practical Meerkat Returns: On Self-Rising Characters

I never thought of these characters as being a Mary Sue danger, however. And as the author points out, we use that expression way too much and too lazily. There are very few characters labelled ‘Mary Sues’ that actually are one by the actual definition, and sometimes, even if they ARE one, so what? Sometimes, that’s the whole point of the story/character.

But that’s a digression. I have always seen self-rising characters as awesome, because they come from that “Shut up and let the subconscious do the driving” place where your story actually lives. This is why I am a pantser, at least during the first draft, and find outlines so antithetical. The story I really want to tell, and the characters that really need to inhabit it, are locked in a vault on the right side of my brain I can’t access during the very left-brained, top-down, before-hand outlining process.

The main character of my first novel, Valerie, was a self-rising character, stepping out from a cast of a dozen names and descriptions to take over the story and make it her own.

In my new story, I had a young man appear out of nowhere to become a love interest of sorts for one of my main characters, who was supposed to eventually get involved with another guy–a guy who as the story evolved developed no chemistry whatsoever with her.

Self-rising Young Man didn’t appear spontaneously in the story in order to be a love interest, he entered the story to spy on Ms. Main Character, which he did by seducing her. And then they sort of fell for each other. And doesn’t love/lust/hate always read more convincingly when it isn’t forced on a character?

Original fiction project – week of 9/04/2011

Dis/inhibition: Still working on final edits. It’s going slower than I thought it would, and that’s frustrating. Especially after having an editor go through it and clean it up. I’m probably adding in new missing/misused words and awkward sentences after she cleaned up all the old ones. As for the artist doing website artwork, we are halfway done already. Cute little illustrations of my characters come to life.

New story: I love it when you start a chapter intending it to work one way, and it ends up playing out in a way you didn’t plan, but gets the job done all the same. One difficulty I’ve been having with this new story is that I have these spirit being characters who I can’t really show in all their detail, nor feature as point of view characters, because that gives away too much of the unfolding mystery. And yet I still want to “show” their activity behind the scenes in the story. Finding clever ways to manage that has forced me to write each new chapter in creative ways, which is resulting, I think, in chapters that are a lot more interesting than they would have been.

It’s the middle of September now (how?!), which means it’s time to start making NaNoWriMo plans. My plan is to belt out 50,000 words of this story, which is currently in chapter 6. It will be a disjointed mess come December 1st, but then I can clean it all up and be much further along than I would have otherwise been polishing off each chapter one at a time.

NaNoWriMo Day 16

New words: 1,702
Total words: 30,920
Goal: 50,000

30920 / 50000
(61.84%)

NaNo notes: I sometimes wonder what people must make of my entries on writing, assuming they make anything of them at all. I must appear to have the most convoluted writing process ever. I can’t just do as other writers/NaNoers seem to do, say, “I have this idea for a story…” and then sit down to write it, challenged by coming up with good characters and plot to fit my idea. That is such a logical, top-down, blueprint-for-a-forest approach. No, I have no forest blueprint, no idea for a novel, I have only this urge to write that needs an outlet, and no idea what I want to say.

I must simply start planting trees willy-nilly, trees and rocks and random deers and other things one might find in a forest, then test my feelings about each of them and eliminate the things I don’t like, then generate some more. Eventually, a forest will emerge, and it will have some sort of theme/story to tell/thing to say that was buried deep in my subconscious in a way I have no direct access to.

Or if you prefer another metaphor, writing for me is like an archeological excavation. A Neolithic archeological excavation. I have to pull my story up out of the ground, piece by piece, and be able to tell the difference between stone tools and plain old stones that can be tossed away. After many years, I might have a story/ancient dwelling site. Or I may end up with a pile of rocks.

“What do you want to write about?”

“I don’t know. I’ll figure that out after I write it.”

That about sums it up.

NaNoWriMo Day 12

New words: 1,928
Total words: 23,889
Goal: 50,000

23889 / 50000
(47.78%)

Quote-worthy snippet:

And when she came down, when she had her mind back, when things weren’t torment, restlessness licking like flame under her feet, crawling under her skin, buzzing in her head, not leaving her alone, she could see the havoc she’d wrought, and feel only supreme helplessness to stop it.

Because all the medications in the world couldn’t stop it–not the ones the so-called ‘professionals’ gave her, and not the ones she found herself.

NaNo notes: Well, it’s finally happened. I’ve marinated in the story this month long enough for words to come to me spontaneously *after* I’ve shut down the computer and closed the laptop and wandered away from my chair. Yesterday morning, I scribbled some stuff on a notepad at work soon after I arrived there, just because my laptop wasn’t up and running quite yet. Then, yesterday evening as I crawled into bed, another scene (dialogue, it’s almost always dialogue) played out in my head, forcing me to head back out to my writing chair, find a paper pad, and scribble it all down before sleep took most of it away. Sure enough, this morning, I’d forgotten I even wrote it, and only went looking for that pad as fatigue made me cringe in despair at the thought of having to feed the damned word count today. But my hastily scribbled bits could be typed into the computer and expanded on. A lot. I do really write too much. Which makes NaNo a Big Giant Enabler.

But honestly, writing stuff that isn’t pure crap is hard. It’s really hard. So you take those moments when the quality is effortlessness as a gift, because they come from a part of your brain that won’t perform on demand and that is much more intuitive and in touch with what you want to say.