Saturday, November 3, 2012

What do my characters want? And trying to unravel another writing mess....

"But with your character, he or she must do the thing that launches the story, and then everything he or she does is because of that first misstep or boundary-crossing moment." - Douglas Clegg

This post details EXACTLY why I'm suddenly struggling with my current novel, which began life as a semi-solicited novella (as in someone saying, "Hey, I'd love to read your work) that has now sprawled into a novel that I wasn't expecting. At first I thought: "Okay, we'll run with it."

But then?

Well, like always with me and writing "the novel", everything sorta went SPLODEY, real fast.

In short? I've got 400-500 pages of decently written, loosely connected action that's got no core, no OOMPH....

Because I have no idea what all my characters WANT. 
They have no goals.

I don't know what THEY want.  I don't really know what drives them, so there's nothing really driving the story.

My Billy the Kid Project (which I'm returning to soon, if this current thing doesn't sort itself out), went along so swimmingly because I FIGURED out what my characters wanted. They had goals. I could say:

"Billy the Kid is a man who..."


"Pat Garrett wants..."


"Natchez is trying to live up to his father's shadow...."


"Dr. Hoyt is a man of science obsessed with the unknown..."

And with this current project?

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Part of the problem is, I think, my original plan to write a novella. I was thinking short, crisp, fast action, tight characterization, something that moved. Well, when I realized the plot was too thin and incomplete and bumped it up to a novel, I just started adding in stuff, without also realizing that NOW, I really needed to get inside my characters and figure out WHO they were, and what they wanted.

So, I guess I am participating in NanoWriMo (though not really, with 60,000-some words already written). Basically, I'm giving myself to the end of November to sort this baby out. If I can't, I'll return to Billy and finish that bad boy, because I KNOW what they all want. I know THEM, and they're waiting patiently for me to return and bring them back to life.

If this current project doesn't work out, so be it. I'll shelve it, and move on, never stop writing. They say it took Stephen King nearly 13 years to figure out It (one of my all time favorites), and Ron Malfi has said it took him several years to nail down the equally wonderful Floating Staircase. Much as I hate to admit it, this project may prove to be the same type of deal.

But I won't let it stop my writing. Because leaving off writing is like trying not to breathe....