Research and small stories

October 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

While I wait for some research materials to download and/or ship to me, I’ve started writing out some scenes from my characters backstories to try and firm up their voices and personalities, as well as get into the habit of writing parts of a story every day. Not to say I haven’t been writing before, but it’s more easily done when you’re brainstorming because none of it really matters, whereas once you start writing the actual novel, speaking through the characters, the words flow slower and I have to resist the urge to read and re-read what I’ve written up to this point and make changes.

It’s kind of fun writing these little one-shots. The first one I wrote today was from my main character’s perspective when he was a child, which is quite different from the adult version I will be writing. It’s also letting me get the setting straightened out and is giving me some things to think about as far as logistics that I’m glad I know about now instead of on November 1st.

The research I’m doing will mostly involve watching the show Life After People and looking up information and photos of Pripyat (the ghost town near Chernobyl), which gives a great view of what happens when humans abandon a city and it returns to nature.

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Plot sketching

September 30, 2012 § 1 Comment

One day left until the great long month of October, in which I hope to outline the novel I will write in November and hopefully not tire of the concept. The last half of September has been devoted entirely to brainstorming, and I must have come up with a dozen or so different ideas for a story ranging from the cliche to the overly complex. I think I’ve settled somewhere in between, although to be honest I’ve tried to concentrate on character creation and purposely ignore plot until I’ve nailed them down.

I’ve finally done it. I have characters and what they want, their goals and in some cases their sub or secondary goals. I have some pretty good flaws. They are still kind of flat but that makes sense because I haven’t started writing them yet. The character prompts my sister has been giving me will help with that a lot.

I won’t lie, plot has crossed my mind more than once as I wonder how to move these characters around in the world. I don’t want to ignore it either because it’s hard to have a word count if you don’t know where your story is going. I do have rough ideas for the high energy events like the end of the beginning, crisis point, and climax and now I just need to flesh them out and think them through in detail to make sure it’s a good concept. I have a lot of ideas that sound great initially but when I think about them logistically, they break down.

Name Game: I win

September 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

I finally came up with names yesterday for the three major characters in my story, and it is such a relief! There was some kind of mental hangup with creating my characters before they were properly named. I told myself that it didn’t matter what they were called yet, but I found myself looking up naming sites and statistics online when I should have been developing characters. I’m glad that’s over so I can finally move forward.

This is probably the first time I tried to give the names of my characters meaning and mould the sound of the name to speak to their personalities. I also wanted to make sure they didn’t sound too much alike. The most helpful site in this endeavor has turned out to be thinkbabynames.com. They not only list the names and the meanings but also variations in spelling and names that sound similar. It was extremely helpful when you don’t have a very good idea of what you’re looking for and need some inspiration.

Character First

September 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

I only have about ten minutes so this will be short but I want to get it out there while it’s still fresh in my mind.

I was trying to think of how to describe the story I’m creating to someone, the tagline I guess it’s called, but everything I thought of sounded really stupid when I typed it out. I started to wonder if that was a reflection of my story, and started to think of things to change to make it sound better.

Eventually I just had to snap myself out of it. I could feel my blood pressure rising and just the slight edge of panic creeping into my thoughts. No, this is all wrong! It’s not working, nothing is working! I stopped and tried to clear my head for a moment, which was when I realized that the real problem I have is that I need to work through my characters; their goals and personalities, and what they hope to achieve, and once that is done I can go back and work the setting to find the most effective way to tell their story.

First things first, I need to work on characters.

Two days of thoughts (aka catching up)

September 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

From Saturday:

My fingers are moving as slow as snails while my mind races faster than I can keep up. I’ve had quite a bit of time to think about the structure of my story. I find it has become an amalgam of several different storylines that appeal to me, and I hope that in itself will be enough to make it somewhat unique. What I really need to do is stop worrying about whether something is a cliche or not. Even if it is, I can always tweak it later to help it along. The big ideas are always the same and just a little creativity can separate it from the pack.

Like my sister says, “Everything you want to do has already been done a hundred times before, so don’t worry about it and just do it!”

I’ve been thinking of actions that can be taken more than one way. Something as simple as a look of surprise and the exclamation “..but you’re dead!” could mean the person was the would-be murderer shocked at his victim’s survival, or the lover who was told the victim was dead and is simply experiencing the shock of the dead coming back to life. Two very different standpoints but through the eyes of a another character they could seem similar. And that gives me some wiggle room to manipulate the storyline as it develops. I don’t want to be too vague because that is a dead giveaway. I need to find the right way to convince the audience that one of the statements is true but not the other so I can totally blow them out of the water with a revelation later on in the story. I know that doesn’t work on everyone because some people are crazy good at guessing the outcomes of stories. But in general the theory holds.

Written today:

Trying to be creative is exhausting! Inevitably, I wonder how much I’m over-thinking it. I’ve seen what happens to writers who over plan every little interaction. It sounds about as natural as a child’s haltingly memorized lines in a school play. But trying to plan out twists in a plot is a harrowing and altogether new experience for me (previously I’ve been more of a ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ kind of writer). I feel as though I’m adding and adding and twisting and twisting until it no longer resembles the plot I came up with, and I wonder if that is a good or bad thing since the original plot is not in fact a unique one by any stretch.

I’ve also discovered I freeze up writing in certain situations. I was at the clay studio thinking I could just sit back and plunk on my keyboard with no problem. The first of many problems was Adele’s horrible throaty voice constantly in my ear thanks to someone’s terrible taste in music. The next was that the comfortable chair I’m used to disappeared, leaving only hard wooden stools in its place. I sat at the computer, flipping through screens idly; reading other people’s writing and feeling too self-conscious to write any of my own. There was someone who kept walking behind me and I felt like they were staring over my shoulder to read what was on my screen. I’m sure that wasn’t the case but it’s unnerving nonetheless.

Character development is exciting!

September 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve started writing some development stuff for two characters who I’m hoping will become the leads in the story I plan for November. This “stuff” so far is just writing from a character prompt from two different perspectives.

The prompt was something like “what is the first thing your character does in the morning?” and it’s funny but after writing this same scene from two different points of view, it felt like a dusty old trap door opened somewhere in my brain and more ideas came flooding out, not just for character but an entire story line based around them. I immediately started writing notes down and it was hard, even typing, to keep up with my thoughts.

They are just preliminary ideas but just having an idea is the most exciting thing! An idea that’s mine! I think the message to take away from this is that you don’t have to wait for a fully formed plot idea to start writing. Take some rough character sketches, start writing, and more than likely ideas will spring further from there just based on the direction your mind takes. Mental note for the future.

I think about voices

November 5, 2009 § Leave a comment

We’ll just say I found this link during completely relevant research. Yes, I wasn’t procrastinating at all.

There is an article here that talks about how to make each character speak differently. Not think differently, speak. This was very interesting to me because  it was something I noticed after starting to re-read my last nano novel. I get the feeling that my characters all do sound alike (they all talk like me).

Now that I’m not feeling so rushed, I have time to think about something other than “oh god, gotta get the word count!” The characters have always been the most important part of the story for me, because they are the ones who will carry the plot. We’ll see if  can use some of these tips to give my characters their own unique voices.

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