Foundling

January Debrief

There are two facts about January that remain fairly consistent: 1).  It is cold where I live and 2). I read voraciously but write very little during the month.  It’s not a productive time of the year, as I’m still usually recovering from the post NaNo and holiday burnout.  Thus January is my month to read other people’s work while silently cursing every fluffy white flake that falls from the sky.

This year, the weather held true to form with an extra dose of arctic chill just for good measure.  I fell down on the task of reading, however, returning several library books unopened.  I did begin rereading Hesse’s Siddhartha at the beginning of the month.  It remains unfinished on the growing pile of books that I plan to read.  Considering Siddhartha is less than 175 pages and that I am perfectly capable of devouring an entire George R. R. Martin novel over a quiet weekend, this failure to read is pretty substantial.

Where reading failed, writing flourished.  A quick tally of non-fiction comes in at about 5100 words.  The word count for fiction is uncertain, as most of this is still in hand-written form.  However, I can venture an educated guess based on what I normally average per page that would put the count right around 25,000.  Let’s compare this to January of last year.  I believe I have that total fiction word count memorized, as it was a nice round number that starts with z and ends with o.  Non-fiction came in at 1900 words give or take a half-dozen.  So, that’s 31,000 versus 1900 words  from last year.  Suddenly I feel perfectly justified in my failure to read more than a few pages.

We’ll see if the trend holds for February, as that bloody vampire novel is still very much in its infancy.  Sorry, Siddhartha, but enlightenment might just have to wait awhile.

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Character Building

Terrible news, great news, but it’s all one in the same news…  I am still fang-deep in that vampire story that I mentioned in my last post.  The great bit is that I’ve spent a lot of time butt-in-chair, words-on-page.  Unfortunately, I can’t seem to re-vamp this story into something that doesn’t involve blood-suckers (obvious pun intended).  So vampires it is.  At least I’ve avoided capes, widows peaks, men dressed in velvet and lace, Elyria-esque females, and sparkly baseball players thus far.  If any of these do make an appearance, it will likely be as punchline to a bad joke.

In spite of my complaints, I am actually enjoying the writing process with this particular story.  The last two larger works that I produced were both done for NaNoWriMo and were excruciating to write.  In looking back, I realize now that neither of the novels had good character development.  Both had male protagonists who seemed to move through life simply because they were both too unmotivated to lay down and die.  Both lacked any real passion about anything, with the possible exception of self-preservation.  Even in that aspect, they were dull and unappealing as day-old dishwater.  There were days that I wanted to take a match to those manuscripts (and probably should have!), because writing them bored me to tears.

Not all of my NaNos have felt as flat as the last two and, with twenty-twenty hindsight, it’s clear that the interesting ones were the stories whose main characters I wanted to know better.  For me, the process of creating a character is like getting to know someone new.  Even though I am technically the one who decides what a character likes and dislikes, what motivates and stresses them, and what ultimately they do and do not do, my favorite characters to write are the one that surprise me.  Characters that I think I know who pull some ace or joker from their sleeve when I’m not expecting it.

The protagonist of this latest work is such a character.  Looking back at the short piece where she originally appeared, she had a lot of potential to join the ranks of the dull main characters described above.  Fortunately, characters sometimes  have a way of telling a writer “No, you’re writing it wrong.  This is not who I am.”  In the case of this female protagonist, it was the other characters who informed me that I wasn’t writing her correctly.  They pointed to little hints that she wasn’t exactly who I had originally created, that what lurked beneath the surface was quite another person entirely.  She has become, in fact, far more interesting and complex than originally envisioned.  Writing her is a joy.  Daily word counts that were agonizing during last  year’s NaNo are flying off my fingers easily now.

I don’t know how long this particular enchantment will last, but I hope that it continues through the duration of the novel.  I’d like to continue to be surprised by this character and what she chooses to do.

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In Which A Little Story Devours My Brain

In an effort to kick-start a more regular pattern of writing, I recently picked up a short but incomplete piece of fiction with the thought of finishing it up.  The story was nothing more than a scene of conflict between two life-long friends as they discovered themselves on different sides of a clash between humans and vampires.  It was not intended to be anything more than a brief piece written for my own entertainment.

As occasionally happens, the story has plans for itself that I did not foresee and the characters have taken on a life of their own.  The single scene has turned into a nearly novel-length plot that is presently threatening to be book one in a series.  From two characters have sprung two armies, complete with internally feuding families.  While I’m thrilled to my toes that writing is currently not just a regular habit, but an outright addiction,  this was not the story I had intended to tell.     Still, the story demands to be written and who am I to question my (slightly deranged) muse?

Check back next week.  By then, I may have my brain back again from the vampires.

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