NaNoWriMo: Days 16 and 17

We hit the magical day of 16 yesterday, the day that many psychologists say new habits are forged. Congratulations, intrepid writers with recently created finger callouses! I’ll go ahead and admit it now: missing a single day doesn’t hurt your chances of forming habits. But hey, we’re over the basic threshold, so don’t hold my secrecy against me.

I’m a wee bit behind track, but at this point the crisis levels in my manuscript are ratcheting up for my protagonist. Pacing here is important—there’s a fine line between losing the plot with too many twists, and getting bogged down in the story enough that everything loses steam. I’m trying to balance these out as my main character deals with a few rapid-fire revelations. Now he’s literally trapped in a woman’s body, in another time, believed dead, and running from people out to make that presumption true. I will need to write in a reprieve at some point soon. But there won’t be much rest for my weary.

All of the character work we did at the beginning, during exposition, now needs to hold up to the increasing tension. Characters who bottle their emotions up can only explode with rage or frustration in ways true to what we’ve seen on prior pages—certainly contrast can work, like when the bullying Sue Sylvester on Glee tenderly cares for her sister, but it’s clear her sibling is the single person in the world that Sue is nice to. We can and should stretch our characters because they need to occupy 3D space, but we can’t leap over their skills, experience, or limitations with no good reason, or our readers won’t buy it. Believability is about never building a bridge too far. Like seeing a tiger from a series of points on a piece of paper, we can set people up to imagine the whole of something, but we can’t be haphazard about it.

This is also a point in writing when consistency errors can pop up. This is why the notebook is so handy. What was that guy’s last name? Wasn’t the scene in the saloon two chapters ago set in the spring? Is it the woman’s right or left hand with the birthmark? Our interruptions in between writing stints may cloud our memories, but someone reading along will notice such things, and in any case, these inconsistencies may show that we’re not as immersed in our pretend worlds as we should be. Further, as we charge up whatever dilemma is going on, little breakages in plot points and character can throw the whole story out of alignment.

Keep taking notes while writing, and expanding on those character write ups. They’ll only help you communicate better and keep the works intact. Because we’re building to the climax and Thanksgiving is around the corner for U.S. writers—focus has never been more important.

Good thing all of this is habit now.

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Categories: ponderings

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