Monday, September 15, 2008

More on Process

What I'm reading: Into the Fire by Suzanne Brockmann

What I'm writing: Chapter 21

First -- a bit of Happy Dance News: When Danger Calls is available for pre-order on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. I was unaware of this until one very nice commenter pointed it out to me. And, at the moment, it's discounted at Barnes and Noble. You can read a little more about the book on my website.

My writing quotes of the day have been dealing with the process of writing lately. One common question is 'do you plot the book in advance?' I don't, not really, which is why this quote makes perfect sense to me:

Not only do I not do an outline, I can't understand how anybody possibly could. Because, at least if you're writing character-based fiction, you have to know a lot about your character before you can begin. So I write to discover my characters and, in doing so, feel my way through the story.

~Tom Perrotta

However, just because I can't understand how others can outline doesn't mean I think they're 'wrong.' Everyone finds his or her own way to get the story on the page. But knowing the characters is vital. If you don't know enough about them, how will you know how they'll react in any given situation?

Right now, my hero needs to keep someone out of the way for a few hours, while he goes in search of the heroine (of course – he's the hero.) My crit partners have suggested that he should allow himself a lot more time than he originally estimates he'll need, to show that he's sensible and a good planner. However, he won't let me do that.

First, because he's dealing with a two-bit thug, and not someone who's going to be blowing up buildings or wreaking other major havoc, he's not going to do anything drastic (Not to mention he doesn't need the cops involved). Although my hero is entirely capable of killing people if he has to, it's not something he does unless he's on an assigned mission.

Second, because his only course of action in this situation is to leave the guy locked in the covered bed of a pickup truck, and for personal reasons, that's something my hero considers a 'bad place'. At first, that's what I was going to do, just leave him there, but my hero wouldn't let me write it that way. He insisted on having someone else let the thug out after a 'reasonable' amount of time.

I have to hope that readers will see that my hero's character qualities would prohibit him from doing anything too inhumane to the thug, while still giving him what time he needs to find the heroine.

Right now, the solution is that other 'stuff' happens that delays him. Finding the right 'stuff' so it doesn't feel contrived becomes the challenge.

Which brings me to another quote:

Figuring out how all of it will fit together is always the biggest challenge, but I don't make that happen beforehand--I just start writing and see what happens on the page.
~Jennifer Egan

In the scene above, I found I needed a new character to do what my hero asked, and it turned out he was exactly that – a character. Sometimes these strangers who show up on the page turn out to be more fun than the ones you've invited.

That's still my process. I write it. Sleep on it. Look at it the next day.

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