Thursday, 9 August 2012

JulNoWriMo Musings - Part 4


Part 4 - Character Revenge


So I started with a number of "plot points" that I broke down into "incidents", and my process involves writing from incident to incident, stringing together the plot points. Seems straightforward enough. So why CAN'T I leap ahead whenever I like?

Characters.

Or perhaps their revenge, after being at the whim of all these incidents, having had their conversations fast forwarded, or getting their backstory plugged in ("you need a lawyer so my dad's a lawyer now, huh?"). Now, the characters do talk to me, not so much literally, but they WILL wrench the story progression in new directions - fortunately, from part 1, it's only a plot "in a sense". My characters create the plot evolution.

As a first example, PART 1 of my story was NOT meant to take up half the word count, or even BE a "Part 1". But here's what happened. I started the story with James also holding the knife, meant to be dramatic deception. But then Trixie and/or James advised that this would have larger magical consequences, pushing for a scene in Amy's dream. I allowed that, which spawned an entirely new sequence using a genie. At which point Melissa said there should be a darn good reason why she didn't go in to help, which spawned an entire sequence with the lycan, and before I know it I had experienced at least a half dozen fight scene stuck points, and was passing 24,000 words on July 19th.

As a second example, the big reveal at the climax was supposed to be the existence of a being regulating supernatural balance. Melissa's parents decided that, not only did it made sense for them to know about that in advance, they would tell their daughter not even 2/3rds of the way in. So I needed a new climax. That idea came fairly swiftly, mainly because Melissa and James themselves decided on it -- which meant I couldn't use THAT plan either, because the climax needed to involve the unexpected. Thus while my framework was unchanged, in that the "Balancing Event" would still take place, the nature of it was CONSTANTLY changing because of what the characters were doing, or learning about. Had I written it early, it would have become obsolete and incorrect by the time I got to it.

A plot is necessary to be sure, but (as Linkara said at ConBravo - @16:30 in video), you can't really choose it over the characters - or vice versa. The few times that I've broken my rule of not jumping ahead (I think only during a WriMo - for instance Melissa and James' reunion scene was written during one stuck period on the lycan), by the time I'd caught up to said scene, I always had to tweak it. (For instance, I hadn't envisioned Trixie being there.)

It's funny, I consider myself a character driven writer. Yet I preemptively crop out a lot of their stuff that doesn't relate to my plot, and point them down certain paths, keeping them on track. (It might be worth saying that the attempts I make at Plot What Plot? stories fail. Miserably.)  However, the trade-off is that my characters define what those paths I'm pointing at actually look like. They bring me down them, to the next fork in the road, at which point I can reassess and point them in the proper direction once more.

I guess in the end, I'm hoping that what you don't see my characters explicitly doing, you can visualize offscreen for yourself, without me spelling it out. I do like to think that others can fill in my gaps, or toy with my loose ends. I know I like exploiting loose ends in the anime and television shows I see.

Eventually though, it all needs to end.

Next: The Finish

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