Wednesday, May 22, 2013

When Characters Refuse to Listen

I remember reading the NaNo forums one year, finding multiple writers complaining of runaway characters. They swore up and down that their character simply refused to do something. I was amused at the notion. They’re characters. You made them up. You control what they do. End of discussion. Then I met my princess character.

Admittedly, the name Jasmine came from Aladdin. Sorry, I grew up on Disney, just like everyone else. Anyway, as I was planning my story, I decided to scrap the name Jasmine. Disney used it first. I connected with other NaNo writers and asked for help. I needed my princess’ name to begin with a J, since she used a different name for part of the story.

I found a wonderful writer who offered to name things. I needed several family names, the name of my kingdom, and my princess name. After a few days, she emailed me her list. In her suggestions was the name Jemma. I liked it and decided to rename my princess Jemma.

That lasted until November 1st. As I attempted to write the first few sentences of Chapter 1, I had to introduce my main character, the princess. I am not kidding you – I literally could not type the name Princess Jemma. It would not happen. I tried Princess Jasmine, and the rest of the sentence flowed out.

In that one moment, my character asserted control. The character that I didn’t know that well yet had very politely stepped to the forefront of my brain and said, “My name is not Jemma. It is Jasmine.”

Since that time, I’ve been sympathetic to other writers in that position. One minute they’re minding their own business, and suddenly the character does something they do not expect. Like speaking to them. Like refusing to do what you want. Like refusing to do what other characters want.

In this same book, I had to simply stop checking in with one character because she was so strong. I was afraid if I kept visiting her, she would take over the book. The story was not about her. In later stories, I had to make this character deathly ill so she would be unable to take control of the situation or the story. It’s weird and wonderful at the same time.

If you haven’t had a character act seemingly of their own accord, don’t worry. It is not the sign of a bad writer. It is simply an interesting phenomenon. Wonder at it from afar, and be thankful that it hasn’t happened to you. It’s awesome and scary. I’m not sure whether or not you want such a thing or not.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Waiting For Inspiration

I’ve gotten lax in writing out blog entries. I’m trying to stay ahead of the curve now, so I don’t fall behind again and make my readers think that I may have fallen off the edge of the earth.

I was talking with my oldest brother recently, and he was suggesting I write a stand alone book that could be given away when it is edited and ready for the public eye. I responded by telling him I had an idea for one, but I was stuck. I was waiting for inspiration. My loving eldest brother responded in typical big brother fashion. “You don’t wait for inspiration to strike to edit your novels. You just do it. So write another one.”

I tried to explain to him, without success, that writing a new story without inspiration is a tad difficult. If you have the basics in place, yes, you can fake it for a while until you figure out a direction. But when all you have is a plot, no main characters, no motive for the villain, and no fix for the horrible plot problem, you cannot write a story from that.

I’ve heard other writers refer to their inspiration as their muse. I don’t subscribe to that idea, but I appreciate the image. I would love to receive the rest of the pieces to my incomplete plot to write out the half story I have burning in the back of my head. But, due to the other projects going on right now, I think that likely won’t fall into place for me until November. Despite my desire, I will likely miss the other Camp NaNo. Having no story is a big issue.

As writers, we are all the time waiting for inspiration. And until that one thing happens that makes our writer brains go “what if,” we’re stuck in neutral. Now, there is something to be said for having “butt in chair” time to make yourself do something related to your work. But there comes a point and time where your inspiration refuses to strike. You still have the same questions that you had the day before.

During writer’s block, there is a certain amount of “just do it” that forces you around your story obstacle. But when you’ve reached an impasse before the story is actually on paper, that is a different problem entirely.

My suggestion to any writer in a situation similar to mine is to take a break. Place your story questions somewhere that it is easily accessible, then forget about it. Go on with your life, and try to forget the fact that you’re waiting for inspiration.

Sometimes, we have to walk away in order for our inner writer decides to connect the unseen dots.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to take my own advice.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Miracle of Technology

We live in a day and age where it is very common to communicate with people we’ve never met in person, share our lunch choices with the world, and where applying for jobs means you don’t have to leave your house.

My computer is finally back in my possession. I am a happy camper. How I’ve missed my normal keyboard and the touch pad I could turn off with the click of a button. I did not miss the annoying beep my computer made when it was disconnected from the power cord, but you can’t have everything.

When my computer began having problems, I did what any frightened writer would do – I pulled out my flash drive and quickly saved everything of importance. This included my first series (currently on hold until I figure out a few plot holes) and my most recent books that follow my awesome princess.

Saving was a matter of clicking and dragging. Even with my computer being silly and stupid, once the proper windows were up, it took seconds. Just like that, 11 books and various other versions of drafts, notes, and character journals were saved onto my flash drive. 11 books.

I stopped counting how many books I’d written after I finished my first series and still didn’t have anything published. I decided to count only the number of published books, since counting my manuscripts just made me depressed.

Aren’t you glad you live in a world where computers are so common? Can you imagine trying to edit one of your manuscripts completely by hand, from start to finish? Yes, I’d cry, too.

Today, we shall celebrate the writer’s best friend of the 21st century – the flash drive. There’s also emailing copies to yourself and using online storage.

Back up your work, people. Please. Don’t have a heart attack like I almost did when I thought my computer might be dead.

What are some inventions or computer features that you can't live without?