My fellow Write Triber, Vinodini Iyer wrote, in a comment on my Plot Bunnies, Ninjas, and Tales of Derring-Do, “My plot bunnies sometimes start dragging a bit and I need to turn them into plot dragons to make worth a read.” Naturally, my plot dragons wanted to meet her plot dragons!
My first plot dragon was really more of an imaginary friend – or a friend to my imagination. His name was Puff:
Dragons live forever, but not so, little boys (or girls)… we can only hope to join them on Honalee, when our time comes.
The dragons, of course, keep company with the unicorns. Shel Silverstein and The Irish Rovers introduced me to their silly unicorns:
They mostly sleep through the summer and come out to frolic at Christmas time. Like me, the unicorns love to climb trees!
Adorable as they are, you’re probably wondering, by now, what these creatures really have to do with NaNoWriMo – or anything, really, beyond proving that Her Authorship is a crazy lady who collects whimsical critters and occasionally sleeps with them in a blanket fort. It’s about building – or not building – character. I say “not building,” because, for some of us, it’s more like the characters reveal themselves as needed, taking their own sweet time about it. Some of the creatures you’ve met in this and my last post have names; others remain nameless because they haven’t yet told me their names. In time, I trust, they will.
Click that link if you’d like an introduction. The critters have a twisted sense of humor, too.
Just as I admire the planners and outliners and plotters of the world, but am not one of them, so do I admire those who keep character sheets and notebooks and details about each cast member in advance of penning the tales in which they act. Unfortunately, I am what’s known as a “pantser,” or one who “writes by the seat of her pants.” The story unfolds for me as it unfolds for you – as I write it. The characters “appear” as needed, and they tell their own story. When I attempt to “stage manage” or direct them, they rebel. They dig their heels in and refuse to move or speak. I once switched from first person point-of-view to third, and then had to threaten my thirteen year old protagonist: “If you don’t start cooperating, I’ll dress you in your big sister’s clothes and send you off to middle school that way!” No one was more surprised than I was when that worked.
None of my characters like to be controlled any more than you or I do! If I sit back, wave them onto the stage, and listen, then writing becomes as easy as taking dictation. As their personalities take shape, their names pop into my head.
There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to go about it; there is “what works” and “what doesn’t work.” You’ll know the “what doesn’t work” by its most obvious symptom: “Writer’s Block.” If you stare at a blank page for 15 minutes or more, and words do not magically appear, you may need to try a different approach. Remember, it’s not wrong, if it works for you.