Here’s my NovelRace update, not one but two weeks later. After an ‘I do me proud’ start in the first fortnight, I slacked off for a week in between, making full use of my 30th birthday as an excuse. Pune and its wonderful people gave me a delightful celebration spread over 4 days (a birth weekend rather than a birthday) so I’m full of fervent enthusiasm now, all set to prove myself again.
What have I learnt? Other than the fact that creative endeavours don’t follow regular schedules but do need the discipline to keep running, that is. I bemoaned the fact that I didn’t like my protagonist and realised that it was very important to understand and empathise with your characters to be able to tell their stories well. I did something else, almost a reverse process this time.
Instead of creating a character and endowing him with attributes that I would like, I formed images of people whose stories I wanted to tell. That is to say, instead of creating a character, I just picked out people and decided to build stories around them. As you might expect this means that the characters are drawn from real life, people I’ve known or in some cases, my own self. I don’t want this to be either biographical or autobiographical so what I did do is use my real-life inspiration only as a reference (“What would he do in such a situation? What would she think?”).
It is actually not as difficult as I thought it would be. For one, I’m superimposing the personality traits of one, on the lifestyle of another, overlaying it with imagery of my own thoughts and spinning the character’s life into a direction that suits the story. I’m fairly sure that there’ll be very little resemblance left to the original inspiration at the end of it. In fact, I’m not even really telling the story of the person who I started with. They only inspire the character, not their stories. Does that make any sense? I would hope so, it makes perfect sense to me and the art of telling stories is being able to make sense to other people too.
While on characterization, I was also recently (2 hours back to be precise) struck with the thought that there might be a certain typical range of characters that make a good story. All the good stories I’ve read have about 5-7 key characters and everyone else is just scenery. The exceptions to these are the Mahabharata and The Lord of The Rings (off the top of my head, I’m sure there are plenty more). All of these are magnum opera (which Wikipedia tells me is the plural of magnum opus) – huge, sprawling canvasses with big, grandiose stories. I seem to have a huge character set already but I don’t know whether I want to tell such big stories. My worth is in my details, small everyday observations of life. Still, things are changing at such a rapid-fire rate, I really don’t know how tomorrow is going to look.
The loss of a week meant I dropped out of the running, a fact that made me panic earlier this week. The numbers continue to do a number on me. But my competitive streak may turn out to be an asset, yet.
At the end of this week, in a late burst of effort, I’ve managed to pull up the word count to 10,896 which puts me back in the top 20 (just about). I see the gap between the forerunners and the others widening and I really, really do want to be in the first group. Well, I was one of the surviving bloggers from the bunch that started 5 years ago (yes, that’s how old this blog is!) so it’s a matter of pulling off the ‘not fall by the wayside’ trick again.
If you can’t already tell, I’m playing coach to myself by now, giving myself several pep talks. It’s a horribly lonely thing, a writer’s life (and hell, I’m just starting!). For one, the story is forming in your head, right before your open eyes and no one else can see or hear it yet. You can’t quite explain or put it in words, the characters and names and plots and situations and conversations and actions are firing through your head too fast and the best you can hope is to be able to pin at least a few of them down in words.
The other thing is something I remember reading about in Richard Bach’s ONE. Ideas come to you when you’re in the shower or brushing your teeth or right in the middle of your slumber (which is about 3 a.m. for most people and 7 a.m. for me) or taking a walk or crossing the road. In short, at the most inconvenient, embarrassing, socially inconsiderate time possible. I wonder if any of my friends have noticed me fade in and out of conversations this week. Well, since a number of them happened on the phone, they probably didn’t notice, having gotten used to a quarter-attention quote from me while at work. Ideas are not very nice creatures, they’re horribly pampered brats. It’s getting so I’m rethinking even my fondness for babies and kids.
And at the end of it all is the gnawing, throat-strangling self-doubt. Writing a blog post is one thing, even a business report, a short story or an article…but a real, honest-to-goodness, full novel?? I really don’t know if I have it in me. I have ideas but I really don’t know if I have a novel in me. Why should that matter, ask the most supportive of my umm…supporters (gah, and I’m supposed to be a writer). It matters because whatever I choose to create will be made word by word, character by character, every silver tinge on every cloud in every goddamn horizon on every page will be created by me. And if that doesn’t mean something to other people, it will be a colossal, utter, heart-breaking waste. Like giving birth to a stillborn.
Okay, I’ll stop panicking. DEEEEEEEEEEP BREATHHHHHHHHHH. Wish me luck, if you love me. I really need it!! Until next week, I’m still going to be running.
The NovelRace updates: