In novel writing class this week we learned about developing characters. We had several free writing time blocks where our instructor said ‘using your novel as an inspiration, describe the following things…’ and we then went off to describe our main characters room, house, background, mother, bookshelf. The exercise was brilliant, who thinks about what books are one someone’s shelf? What type of furniture or view they have out a window? What food is in the cupboards. None of that content needed to work into the novel, but helped you develop a better sense of your main character. All goodness right?
I don’t have a main character. I don’t even really have a novel. I have three novelettes from my NaNoWriMo exercises, none of which are worthy of continuing. I was discussing this with my mom last night after class (/wave mom!), she really wants me to continue the nano-dino story that I was working on last year. I came to the conclusion that for Nano in the past I’ve been keen to write 50k words to hit the ‘novel’ mark, but none of the things I’ve written would I really ever want anyone to read (except for my lovely mom of course) and (e.g. what I’ve written before is c.r.a.p.).
But, when the instructor in the class asked if everyone had a novel to pull from, did I speak up? Heck no. I didn’t want to be the only novelist in the room that didn’t have a novel. Gads. So I wrote about my Nano-Dino semi-main character in class just so that I would have something to do, and it was interesting to figure out what type of books she read (btw, she doesn’t have a bookshelf in the 22nd century, books are only digital didn’t you know?). I also had to come clean in the group discussion about my main characters (thus far) always being cooler, younger versions of myself… (embarrassing), because I’m not really creative enough to come up with someone original. Meanwhile the lady next to me talked about her main character being a sociopathic divorce real-estate agent in diva heels and the gentleman on my other side described his main character as a Mexican corrupt politician in the drug cartel.. (perhaps they were talking about cooler versions of themselves as well?) – and somehow they described these characters with a straight face.
Another conclusion – I feel like a fraud trying to be a writer. Which is weird, because what really makes a writer? You write, therefore, you are, right? I was an English major with an actual emphasis in creative writing (!!) in University, I’m a marketing professional now. I should be able to come up with decent sentence structure and some okay storytelling (otherwise don’t tell my boss – and no judgment on the blog sentence structure – this is just for giggles).
So what to do, what to do? Well, I have a homework assignment for class and next week we’ll be reading our pieces aloud to our peer group (eeek!). This is the assignment (and btw, I haven’t edited his grammar or punctuation…just saying!):
• jot down your current thoughts on the basic framework of your novel – main character, setup, inciting incident, complications, climax, conclusion
• what happens before the inciting incident? what leads up to it? Find a moment shortly before or after the inciting incident, and start writing
• It’s fine (and often easier) to start in the middle of the story, you can write the ending and beginning later.
* If you’re not sure, if some elements of your novel are uncertain, just write from your current sense of your novel – it’s fine if it changes later.
So 1) need to get over this “I’m not creative” shtick and fast. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and don’t want to go into class with something awful (oh btw, did I mention that the class is full of book/budding novelist snobs? This crazy ~60 yo tri-athletic looking woman from class cornered me after class and after I told her I admired JK Rowling and the Harry Potter series she said that was ‘actually pretty terrible writing and not original at all’ – the NERVE.), 2) I need to start writing… for real. 3) I’ve been scouring the web for some fun writing prompts and exercises and think I might start practicing right here… for the world (and when I say world I mean my mom who is my only follower) to read!
Ready… set… write (creative, witty prose!)