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How Characters Alter Their Own Stories

How characters alter their own stories

Nothing to do with my new girl beyond being a convenient witch image.

Sitting at my PC, banging away on the keyboard as I write a scene for a new character being added to Aida, something pops into mind. A random scene, not something I’d planned or even thought about before this point. So let’s talk quickly about how characters alter their own stories.

So, I write the scene, laugh at the scene because my character has just been introduced to a new situation and is both mildly annoyed and somewhat flustered, then move to the next scene. If you’re thinking this is in any way unusual, trust me, it’s not. In fact, this is how I normally write, more or less completely at random, at least when it comes to individual scenes.

It’s been said by numerous writers that ‘your characters know their story better than you do’. And the totally random yet utterly perfect scene I just wrote for this character confirms that more eloquently than I could ever manage, even if given an unlimited word budget.

If you’ve read the first book, you’ll remember a flamboyant character by the name of Falconi. He exists to introduce the reader to the concept of character-type idols. People who create a character – a whole persona – and roleplay it at all times, at least in public, and sometimes even in private. (more…)

Maintaining Writing Momentum

Maintaining Writing Momentum

Ready to write, sah!

Maintaining writing momentum is one of those things that can take a bit of figuring out. I was asked a while back how I go about writing past the 10,000 word mark. For me this is a pretty easy question to answer, because I’ve never really struggled to maintain momentum. Quite the reverse, actually… I tend to be way too prolific.

What I do struggle with is keeping my focus on one thing. If I’m in the mood to write something specific I can get 5,000 or more words done in a day. My personal best is 7,500 in ~12 hours, which ain’t bad at all. But if I don’t feel like it? 1,000 might be a struggle, and chances are I’d give up after 500 words. And what I did write probably wouldn’t be very good.

So how do I write so I can maintain a level of momentum, especially past the 10,000 word mark? Simple, I vary what I write and don’t get hung up on writing linearly. Condensed down to a single word, I’d use this: Leapfrogging. Confused? That’s probably a reasonable reaction.

It’s really very simple, though, you simply jump – or leapfrog – back and forth over already-written sections – or scenes that don’t exist yet! – and write whatever the hell you feel like at that precise moment, anywhere in the story. (more…)

The Process of Writing

The process of writing img #1

I keep staring at the screen but nothing happens!

Writing, it’s as easy as sitting at your keyboard and bleeding continually until something good happens. I wish that were hyperbole. It really isn’t, though; writing is tough, writing is difficult, writing is occasionally terrifying. But writing is also immensely fun and satisfying if you stick at it. And writing comprises far more than the simple act of sitting at your keyboard and hammering on the keys.

Here, I’ll be sharing a bit of the process behind how I write and what goes into the whole business from start to finish. I’ll keep it reasonably brief, but hopefully you should have some decent idea of how much work actually goes into writing by the end of this post. Work that the average reader is rarely privy to.

The Process of Writing Stage 1: Preparation.

Now, hold your horses a moment there, put that keyboard down, it’s dangerous. Before the real business of writing can begin, there are a few things I’ll generally deal with first: planning, research, creating characters and settings, procrastinating, and drinking many cups of tea. Let’s dig into these briefly.

Some people plan, others wing it. I tend to sit in the middle, planning the overall structure but winging it for most of the individual scenes. If you’ve ever seen people talking about NaNoWriMo you’ll probably have heard these two referred to as planners and pantsers, as in writing by the seat of one’s pants.

What I plan is the main meat of the work; general structure of events, which girls end up in relationships and with whom, individual scenes I’d like to write, how this might tie into other parts of the work, and potential new settings/characters I may use later on.

Personally, I use simple notepad text files for my notes, but other people use programs like Scrivener or OneNote to collate and keep everything neat and tidy. I use separate files for each character, each part/book of a work, and for any other random things I may need to jot down.

The Process of Writing img #2

These are my notes for Aida (left) and all my old drafts for Book 1 (right). Click for full-size.

Once initial planning is complete, I start on any research that may be required. If it’s a real world setting, deciding on an area of the country (or world) is probably a good idea. Looking up images for reference purposes, checking nearby areas for interesting locations/things I can use for scenes, using Google Streetview for getting a handle on street layouts and local businesses. And so on.

Alternatively, for something like Aida, which takes place on a new world, I’ll again be looking for good image references to base locations and characters on. But I’ll also start thinking of all the essential world building. Stuff like names, history, back stories, relationships old and new, economies in use, major historical events impacting current events, etc.

Then it’s onto the really fun part: characters! At this point it’s back to research. Figuring out interests for the girls, building a back story for each, establishing relationships, and anything else that might be necessary based on the world building I already worked on.

So that’s the planning stage. Though I’ll end up going back to my notes and editing, revising, adding new scenes, removing or changing things, and otherwise fiddling all through the process of writing, this stage just provides a useful basis to work from initially. This’ll be less necessary if you’re just writing a short one-shot story, however. But for an enormous planned-out work like Aida or Starlight? Yeah, this stuff’s essential.

Writing, it’s as easy as sitting at your keyboard and bleeding until something good happens. Click To Tweet (more…)