Monday, December 5, 2011

Writing, maybe I do it oddly?

Over the weekend Anna commented that they don't teach the way I write in creative writing courses. It's not the first time she's mentioned this... and it got me thinking.

I can't be the only writer out there that has characters rock up and start telling me a story... can I?

I know lots of writers who have in depth character maps - they're so complete that they could create an entire life for them and some do - before they ever write a word in a story.
Maybe I'm too impatient for that.

I've never done it.

Just like I've never consciously created a character.
My main characters names pop into my head but the character has already shown his/her self to me.
I do sometimes use people I know as lesser characters but only as far as I will use part of or all of their name... the character is not like them, they just have the same or a similar name.

I do have a character book - but it's an after the fact thing and it was mostly for those cannon-fodder type characters and contained sketchy information. Not much more than a name, occupation, body type and height really.

But an in depth outline, any kind of idea who is going to pop up next... hell no. It's not how it works for me.

When my characters show up they want me to get on with the story - and I don't want to spend six weeks creating a beautiful profile and never write a freaking word toward the story... I learn about them as we go.

I knew someone once who wanted to write with me - she spent more time creating gorgeous profiles on a bunch of characters than she ever did writing - in fact to my several chapters she wrote maybe half a chapter and took months. Needless to say I scrapped that half a chapter and turned the stuff I'd written into a rather long short story. It was published somewhere but I can't think where right now!
That kind of dicking around and 'busy work' fucks me off. Seriously, just get on with it, the characters will come and be more interesting if they're allowed to develop on their own.

Does that make me different? Possibly.

But probably no different than me seeing video footage in my head (and yeah I hear music).

When I started writing killerbyte I did not know the main character was a chick called Ellie Conway, I knew she was female and what she looked like. As the story emerged I found out who she was and what she did for a job. It's always been like that for me.

I start writing - I write what I see - the characters show themselves as necessary and I learn about them as the story unfolds.

Right now, I'm writing the 6th Byte novel. I know my characters pretty well, but there were still some surprises for me. A new character rocked up in an alleyway and that surprised the hell out of me... I like writing the way I do it. I like that even I don't know what's going to happen next.
That keeps me interested.

I had no idea that Rowan Grange would become part of Ellie's life - he was mentioned a few times in killerbyte and terrorbyte, he was a fringe person. Not someone she knew. For me, that kind of thing is a lot of fun.

It's like how I didn't know Kurt Henderson was going to become a pivotal part of Delta.

Or that I had no clue when terrorbyte finished what they'd uncover next and how many people were involved in the Hawk situation or who would ultimately (and figuratively) stab Ellie in the back. I felt quite sick when I realised what was happening in Exacerbyte. Sick, but couldn't stop it. Because that's how it happened.

I didn't know because my characters show me what's happening in small sections and in order. There is no skipping to the end, or jumping to the middle. I can only see what they share with me.

Okay, that sounds a little nuts.
But it's how I write.
I trust my characters to show me the story and to resolve any given situation their way.

I use notebooks to keep track of what they're showing me - but I don't write plot outlines or character maps. It's pretty much all kept in my head. (Probably why I tune out of things around me when I'm writing... I don't need other stuff encroaching on the story.)

While you're all pondering over how you write or how your favorite authors write... here's a pretty picture or two from our awesome weekend. :-)

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