Decisions, Recklessness, and Keeping It All Straight

As I sat down to write (look at me go, keeping my promises!) and began to outline possible plot trajectories, it occurred to me why I’m having so much trouble now.  As explained in a previous post, I’m currently at the messy middle bit between introducing the story, characters and setting, and the end bit where things tie together neatly.  In other words, I’m writing the actual damned story.

Stories happen for one reason, and one reason only: the characters make choices.  As in real life, these choices aren’t always the right ones, but they’re made and irreversable.  But also, as in real life, the choices are hard to make but in reality you have to choose quickly because time will never stand still.  However, in the aether of my mind I can make time stand still while I try and puzzle out my character’s choices.  That’s been my problem.

Part of me wants to try to write recklessly, not thinking through the consequences and have my characters make their decisions quickly, soldiering through what may happen as a result.  But I’ve become more cautious than that in this draft, since that was how I wrote NaNoWriMo and its results were disappointing in some respects.  I shudder at the thought of having to do another rewrite as thoroughly as this one, having to remove huge chunks of the story where I “lost the plot” as it were.

It makes me think how my favourite books must have been written, if their authors just wrote from A to B, or if they wrote out a rough plan ahead of time and left the rest to chance, of if there were reams and reams of notations, maps, plans and a detailed narrative plan.  I’d love to have a rifle through the notes for George R R Martin’s Songs of Ice and Fire, for example, just to see how he kept it all straight!

It’s frustrating, the creative writing class I took at university focused on how to draw out ones creativity and be able to express oneself.  But it didn’t teach you the mechanics of how a story comes together, how to organise a whole novel, or what tricks you can use to ensure your plotlines twist and turn but never to the point of confusion.  Maybe it’s assumed that those are the easy bits, or that it should come naturally.  I never used to worry about it, I just wrote until it either splurged out or it didn’t.  But now I’m thinking I need to be more deliberate.

One thing I’ve had to start doing out of necessity is have a single document merely for naming all my characters, places and other important things of interest.  I often have to include their description and personalities as well, so that I don’t forget and end up making them schizophrenic!  It’s necessary because in Cobault alone I have roughly 35 characters all dancing around at once so far.  And since I have Euphemia and Algernon in a school environment, I’ve had to detail out their daily class schedules as well, the class titles, and make note of which classes are held where, the individual room numbers of various people, and the layout of each dormitory.  And that’s only just the beginning of the story!  So if I didn’t have this document listing these things, I’d get very confused, forget who does what and where, and generally it would all go to hell.

So this all brings me to a point, surely.  Mainly that I’d rather complain about how hard it is to write on my blog, rather than actually duke it out with my damned novel.

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