Misbehavin’ // Nanowrimo Day 6

Happy first full week of Nanowrimo! To those who are participating, I hope you’ve found plenty of inspiration and coffee to keep you going. For those on the sidelines (or those who have no idea what I’m talking about), I hope you…have had a relaxing week, I guess. It’s kind of hard to see outside of the Nano bubble currently.

If you hadn’t heard, this blog has been transformed into a temporary writing blog in the spirit of November, so twice a week I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts on various aspects of the craft and perhaps divulging a few of my well-kept Nano secrets.

Spoiler alert: they are guarded by a giant snake.

So, what’s going on today in the noveling world? One thing that’s been cropping up a lot in my writing personally, and something that I’ve always found intensely fascinating, are impish characters. Not characters that are actually imps—no, that would be way too easy—but characters that just don’t seem to misbehave.

Maybe one of the hardest things to understand about a writer’s brain to an outsider, I think, is the concept of character creation. Writers talk about “listening to their characters” or “arguing with their characters,” as if these were living, breathing people. The truth is, that’s not so far from the truth. The closest thing I can compare it to is very close friends. There are some people in life that you know so well that you can actually have a conversation with them in your mind; you can hear their voice and predict their actions just based on the time you’ve spent with them.

Character creation is like that. The more you get to know a character, the easier it is to write them, because their dialogue and actions are natural and specific to that person.

That’s where the trouble comes in.

I’ve encountered this phenomenon a lot in my writing this year. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently doing a re-write of a novel I wrote for my first Nano 7 years ago. I’m pretty fond of this novel, considering it was my first coherent, substantial work of fiction, and I’ve thought about it and re-read it a lot over the years. That’s why now, going back to it, I feel like I’m revisiting old friends. I know these characters so well that I feel like, if I encountered any of them on the street, I would greet them as friends without hesitation.

But now, oh, they cause me so much trouble.

I love them so much and know them so stupidly well that now, in this second draft, they are trying to be clever. I try and make them do something that they did in the first draft, but they fight me. They argue. They tell me that they would never do that. They resent me for even suggesting the action. My plot is taking new twists and turns simply because these characters refuse to do what I thought they needed to do.

And that’s wonderful. It’s also frustrating when you have a plot that needs to happen but characters that suddenly do not facilitate that plot.

I wrote a short story over the summer about these two guys in a post-apocalyptic war who fight together and generally grow and develop alongside of each other. The whole point of the story, in my mind, was that these two guys had an epic friendship.

I was wrong.

Maybe I’ve been watching too much original Star Trek; maybe I’ve spent too much time on Tumblr; maybe I am just crazy. Halfway through the story, I read through a scene and thought, Dang, these two guys love each other. And not in a platonic way.

Too much fandom exposure? Nonsense!

Call me crazy, but I started shipping my own characters. All because they decided to take control of the story in a way I never could have predicted. I never intended a romance. It’s never even implicitly stated throughout the story. But somehow, under my watch, without me noticing, my characters took initiative.

It’s a fantastic feeling, even if it takes the story somewhere you never thought it would go. It’s a fantastic feeling, knowing that your darlings are alive and kicking.

So let them misbehave. Let them have their say. They’ll sure hate you if you stifle them, and trust me, you’ll never hear the end of it.

Find out more about Nanowrimo here, or track my progress.

Current word count: 5,819 / 50,000

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One thought on “Misbehavin’ // Nanowrimo Day 6

  1. Katherine Graff

    Wow Chelsea you nailed it. Creating characters who take on a life of thir own evolves the art of writing to a new level. When they no longer are pawns on your page, but demand a voice of their own you know they are fully formed and as real in your mind’s eye as are memories. It reminds me of a chapter in Thomas Hardy’s tess of the d’urbervilles, when Hardy pauses the story to tell the reader that the characters have taken over the novel.
    I am very proud of you!

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