Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Character Motivation – Letting The Story Be Fuller

Well, here I am, at the end, almost, of the first Big Deep Editing,
3000 words of notes left to go.

Not so fast.

First, I have to back up.

The writing of the whole story, the telling its characters' stories, weaving them together, on the first writing, began last November 1st and continued along until I had to break for the holidays, mid-December. Unable to push back the holidays, I quickly dashed out the last "part" to get it down on paper, but it was not written quite the same. That part was more outlined than written.

Now, during the First Big Deep Editing, returning to that part: stop the presses! A lot of work still needs to be done to let this part of the story, the part that got speed notations, stretch out, finally.

My own style of writing, for this novel, originally, was to let the characters go where they needed to. It was a VERY entertaining novel to write. But having to break for whatever reasons, interrupted that flow and seriously. The outlined part reads flat: bla bla bla and the ending.

NOW is when the synopsis work I've been keeping up along the way and the idea of a plot outline are proving to be way useful tools for me as a writer.

Most of the synopsis -so far- has been more like taking dictation - up to this point. It is the novel in shorthand.

So, today, I realized I have to work with the synopsis, as an entity in itself, and with the plot outline as an essential tool. The speed-notes I wrote for the finale only told me where it has to go, but not how or what needs to still happen along the way.

It still has to get there according to my characters.

So what is before me is not simply another 10-14 days of the First Big Deep Editing.
Rather, NOW, I have to complete the deep versions of the synopsis –small, medium, mid-medium, and the long one– but especially the long one. And not just after I have finished each section, writing it out as I go along, as I clean-up, fill in, and edit, but Now I have to project outward.

So, to really see what needs to be done here, today I have also gone back into my cast of characters to find out what their motivations are.

(Now don't think I haven't done this before, but right about now, at this point in the novel, their motivations are very intense and important. What their motivations are, not just overall, but at this point will help me to pick up the writing right where it needs to be, not just a leap frog from what has happened so far to the ending. More has to occur to get us there. The characters still have objectives to achieve and they require my attention.)

I've been writing all morning about these. I have a pretty good cast of characters and I know them pretty well by now. We have been spending time together for 8 months and 2 days.

And yet, like with people in life, there is so much more to see, if you look closely, deeper, and listen to them.

The characters were mostly fearless in telling me about themselves, what they wanted, what they needed. (All but one, but I will get back to her.) As a matter of fact, they were even urgent about it and heartfelt. Some needed to grow without knowing what or how to do that, so they need each other for that too. And they all want that help, from each other, in spite of their resistances, and from me, in spite of mine.

This is VERY helpful stuff!

I have had to think about one character in particular in even more depth. Mostly, I, as her writer, got a bit tripped up in how to help her out of the dilemma the novel has backed her into. It's complicated. It has to ring true too, to me as her writer and to the story, as well as to the character herself. We have to believe it solves the problem. Deeply.

Well, listening to the characters tell you what they need, what they know, and what they don't know how to get that they need help with, is an interesting conversation and my characters have all grown in this exercise.

By noon today, I had a new picture of what is before me at this point. I believe I am in for at least six more weeks of deep character and story completion.

So much for coming in under the time-frame I thought I had outlined for this part. Ready as I was to go on to the next step, this one is essential.

I am pretty grateful for all the many articles and blogs Ive been reading lately about how the time-frame of a novel
(Question: Is a novel a year too little time for it to develop? Answer: Yes and No, it depends.)
is a delicate matter that cannot just be predetermined and probably shouldn't be.

Because, right now, if I just "wrapped it up," it wouldn't be the novel it wants to be, the one I want it to be, the one the characters themselves are rooting for.

Diving back in today and going deeper.