NovelRace Week 6: My Characters Are For Real!
A quick update on NovelRace. I know this is mid-week so a little late for this but I want to keep the diary going.
As the forerunners start to complete the race and drop off the list, the rankings of the rest of us obviously improve. Also, possibly because we are still learning the ropes and are just about now finding our feet and pace, the numbers are going up at a steady rate. Samit Basu, the pro at this, is still very much in the race which gives me solace in being able to think that each person follows their own pace, irrespective of experience and talent.
I’ve been writing of course, though not in an organized way. The biggest change over last week has been letting go of needing a schedule to sit and write. The good part about being on a sabbatical is that I’m master of my own time so I’ve decided I’m going to make full use of it and write only when I feel able to, without agonizing the rest of the time.
With my latest wordcount update of 22,491, I’m sitting at number 13 (an odd but closely associated number for me). Last week I’ve just finished introducing the many characters in my novel. I found resolution in the thought that my novel isn’t a story of one person, it is the story of a phenomenon. And the only way to explain a phenomenon fairly would be to show its manifestations in many situations. Hence I justify my large character cast.
Earlier I laid out a sketch of all the characters but I’ve found that these have needed to be revised as I actually wrote. It’s actually almost like the way I set an agenda for my own life and had to revise it in the past ten years as some unexpected things came up.
Also, I started with a certain plan of order of importance of the characters but even that has changed. Some characters have just written themselves into oblivion while some have emerged stronger and aggressively demanding “MORE FOOTAGE!” so I’ve given it to them.
Do you hear what I’m hearing? I’m talking about my characters as it they are real. Something interesting that has been happening to me in the past couple of weeks is that I seem to be seeing my characters walking out of the book and around me everywhere. In my conversations with various people, I find I’m fitting them mentally into my character cast and saying “This is so much like X. I could use that little habit she has of flicking her hair behind her ear and build it into X.” I created a sketch but it’s the people around me who are colouring in the details with everything they say and do.
And finally, quite unexpectedly, I’ve had a number of people offer their help. A colleague-turned-friend has offered to read and comment on my work so far. The A.E. comes calling with the standing offer to critique and I know his will be a valuable opinion to have. A lovely stranger/friend I met last year has offered her services in ‘ripping it to shreds just to see what part of it will sustain’, a favour I think I’m definitely going to call in. I will need to put my story through some acid tests. Not yet though.
One exercise I did take on earlier was to plot all my characters into a structure. Know those organisation chart/family tree diagrams? I’ve done dozens of those – I always enjoyed charting. I laid out my characters with their linkages and the sub-plots that they belonged to. I even colour-coded to show the main characters, the supporting characters and the furniture (background people who are referred to or just add scenery but aren’t really important on their own). It wasn’t just fun but I realised at the end of it that it actually crystallized my thoughts and sub-plots as well. It is the visual depiction of the skeleton of my story. Maybe I’ll include it in the final novel; I’ve seen some authors include a family tree in the appendix. 🙂
That’s the update for this week. See you on the other side of the weekend, with (hopefully) a higher wordcount and more writing lessons!
Other NovelRace updates: