Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Summer NaNo Post, Writer's Block and the Importance of Characters

I know NaNoWriMo is three months away, yet and we're all trying to enjoy our summers and relax (at least, I hope we're all trying to enjoy our summers and relax), but as I said last year*, August is when I always seem to have NaNoWriMo on the brain.

I have no idea what I'm going to write this year. None. I've been stuck in a perpetual state of writer's block since I finished 2010's NaNo - and even that needs a lot of polishing before it'll be anywhere near ready for public or semi-public consumption.

Just a reminder: three of us won NaNoWriMo in 2010. Therefore, we rock!

Out of everything I've written, Aigaion Girl has to be my favourite long piece (it incorporates my favourite piece of short fiction), so, lately, I've been trying to figure out why I like it so much more than my other work. I think what it comes down to is characters. A/G was relatively easy and extremely enjoyable to write (rewriting is another story) because I was in love with my characters. Even now, I keep trying to come up with an idea for a sequel so that I'll have an excuse to keep writing them. But I think maybe that's the secret - at least for me. I have another story I've been working on, 200 Pages which has a really good (IMO) concept, but I can't get the characters nailed down and it's killing the story. So I guess what I need, before I start trying to come up with a plot and an original idea and all of that, is a group of truly kick-ass characters.

So, NaNoWriMo - will you be participating this year? Do you have any idea what you'll be writing if you decide to participate? What do you think your chances of winning are?

And my bigger, kind of discussion questiony question: how will you find/create your story? will you work out a plot and create characters to fill it, or create characters and build a plot around them, or do it at once, or in bits and pieces as it comes to you - or is your process completely different?

*Can you believe that was a year ago?


E said...

Woohoo! I can leave comments!

*ahem* That said, I'm looking forward to this year's NaNo. I was jumped by a plotbunny in a dark alley (well, okay, it was a sunny dirt road, but the principle applies) and a whole story sort of appeared, fully-formed. It seems like a lot of fun, too, given that it's a neo-Victorian steampunk-y story with opportunities for all kinds of supernatural (and man-made) ookies, and kickass girls being wonderful (which seems to be a recurring theme in my writing...hmm.) So I'm going to write it.

I'm torn, though, between the shiny new story and the post-apocalyptic urban epic fantasy adventure I've been slogging through recently. I've got a lot invested in it, and it's starting to take on a form that doesn't suck, and I'm really excited to finish it...but then again, maybe I should actually do NaNo properly for once.

I always seem to invent characters around a name, which is why one of my characters in the second story I mentioned up there (the post-apocalyptic...oh, you get the picture) is giving me a hard time. I haven't got a name for him, and he's been, by turns, a snarky asshole, a sheltered little innocent, a gigantic geekwad, and now he's borrowing character traits and speech patterns from the TV shows I've been watching lately. I need to name this kid so I can get him straight in my mind.

That said, though, my main character for that story has had a name for as long as it's existed, and she's still a bit foggy. And the other main character is a little two-dimensional for my liking. So maybe that's not it.

Argh, I don't even know. Characters are hard. I have a theory, though, that if you can't see yourself in each of your characters, somehow, then those characters start turning into walking contradictions (and not in a good way). If you can't imagine how they'd react in a certain situation, because they're just too foreign to you, then you'll get them all wrong.

Athena said...

I would like a fully-formed story to pop into my head for NaNo this year. I know I have a million I could (and feel like I should) be doing, but shiny and new just feels right.

Also, I think character names are *so* important. I don't know that I build characters based on names the way you do, but I know exactly what you mean about not being able to pin an unnamed character down... I completely agree with your theory, too. Even if your character is a total dick, *he* probably doesn't think of himself as a dick - and even if the only part of yourself you give him is basic human motivation, there's still a little of you in there. That's why I find it so difficult to write robots and old vampires, I guess.