Story beginnings are tough; even I can recognize that.
When I’m getting ready to start a new writing project, I spend a lot of time developing and getting to know the main character. One of the things I do is write a character monologue to help get a sense of his/her voice.
With my WIP, I had the brilliant idea to include this monologue as the novel’s opening – a decision for which members of my writing group rightly called me out when I read it to them. Comments included,
“I was bored.”
“There was no action; it was just a bunch of information that didn’t mean anything to me yet.”
“I found it rather poignant.”
(I think I fell in love a bit with the guy who said that last one. However he was already taken, plus he eventually quit writing and gave up the group, which suggests he didn’t really know enough about writing craft to give me proper advice.)
So, my WIP, such as it is, is indeed still IP.
To date, despite have been writing seriously for some six years, I’ve yet to complete anything novel-length that stands as a fully completed story – a fact that haunts me continuously.
I’d originally resolved to finish my WIP last year by my birthday, which is at the end of November.
I didn’t make that deadline, but consoled myself with the fact that I had an entire other novel to write to finish the story, my previously anticipated duology in fact being a trilogy.
But there’s still something about deadlines – something definitive and binding, which I suppose is the whole point. I almost never set deadlines. I really don’t like them, even though my “type” is supposed to thrive on them.
Earlier this year, I met a writer who was also an actor, from whom I received some interesting writing advice.
It happened during a session of the writers’ group that I run. At each meeting, we discuss a specific writing-related question that all attendees are given a chance to answer.
The question du jour inquired which element of writing craft folk felt they needed to learn more about.
When it came my turn to answer, I said character voice.
Specifically, the fact that I wanted to someday write a sequel to my WIP from the first person point of view of a different character, but was unsure how to make the voice distinct from the first person narrator of my WIP.
By GEARSMITH on deviantART
Having recently watched the latest Transformers movie in theatre – perhaps against my better judgement – I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the character Optimus Prime.
Because the movie, in my humble opinion, made his personality almost completely unrecognizable.
Optimus Prime – right up there with Xena, the Warrior Princess – has long been a favourite character of mine. For those unfamiliar with the Transformers franchise – of which there have numerous incarnations via cartoons, movies, and comics – the main, unchanging premise is that of a race of giant alien sentient robots who are gripped in an eons-long war of good against evil.
Optimus Prime is the long-standing leader of the heroic Autobots against the ruthless Decepticons led by the tyrant Megatron.
For the record, I don’t like short stories.
I’ve written about 10 of them over the course of my writing “career” thus far, and almost all of them are flops.
Not because the writing is bad per se (although some of them were written while I was still in high school, so neither is the writing deathless prose). Rather, they don’t work because they aren’t really short stories at all.
They’re novel back stories masquerading as short stories.
That just seems to be the way my brain works: my stories come to me novel length.
(If my WIP is any indication, my stories come to me trilogy length.)
Tori Amos in concert in Vancouver, July 2014.
How do you choose a favourite song from an artist who’s been recording for over 20 years?
I own every studio release that Tori Amos has produced. I can’t say I love all her albums equally, but as she is my “life soundtrack musician” – the artist whose music has played in the background of most of my life, scoring every major turning point and encoding my memories such – I’ve been able to find something to love about all of them.
Which doesn’t make picking a favourite song any easier.
(Neither does the fact that she’s also recorded at least 100 B-sides/non-album tracks, both original tunes and some amazing covers. And that her sound is constantly evolving, covering everything from pop piano ballads, rock, electronica, gospel, cutesy piano ditties, classical, and even musical theatre.)
Most writers, I’m sure, have heard tell of characters who seemingly develop “minds of their own” and “take over” the stories they’re part of.
Maybe it’s happened to you.
Whether or not this phenomenon even truly exists was the subject of the second-most contentious discussion my writing group has ever had.
(The most contentious, unsurprisingly, concerned plotting vs. pantsing. But that’s a story for another day.)
One writer from my group absolutely believed that characters can come to life, and that them doing so is a quasi-spiritual experience for the writer – a channeling of the divine, uncontrollable inspiration that exists all around us.
A writing of the story through us rather than by us.