So, I know that on “Workin’ On It Wednesday” I said that this Sunday I would talk about the writer’s toolbox (and believe me, we’ll get to it eventually), but I think I want to address something that’s been on my mind all week. But first…
As of this writing, the word count for the week on Mark of the Maker: Firebrand is 974. I’m feeling pretty good about it – the story is making progress, although slowly. I’ve been writing short stories for so long that writing novels now feels like the plot drags. That’s one of my fears; that the plot really IS dragging and I just don’t realize it because I’m writing a longer-form piece. I suppose that’s what editing and revision and beta readers are for – to correct things like a draggy plot. Right now, I’m just going to focus on putting words on the page.
Which brings me to the point of this Sunday’s post. The big question. Why does it matter? I’m not talking about the existential question of why does any of it matter, or even the question of whether or not it matters if I create this story. What I’m talking about is why it matters plot-wise. The question of why it matters has been dogging me all week, and trying to find the answer within my imagination has given me a headache on more than one occasion.
Normally, I’m what they call a “pantser” – I write by the seat of my pants – and the story almost sort of writes itself. I let the characters make their own decision and take the plot in the direction they want it to go. For many years, this has worked well. I don’t know if it’s a function of growing up, growing older, or something else, but I’m not sure I 100% trust them to go where or do what I want. Which had me a bit worried. I’ve been thinking a bit about the structure of this novel, about plot and characterization and *gasp* outlining, which is what brought this question to mind. So, why do the actions in the plot matter?
And honestly? I don’t know. I can’t see the big picture here, and I can’t figure out why what my characters are doing matter to the world-at-large. I don’t know what, if any, ramifications would come of the characters not completing their task. I suppose I just feel like it’s not…big…enough, maybe? I don’t feel like there’s a sense of urgency to the story, and I don’t feel like (at least not right now) there’s a sense that what’s happening in the story matter to the characters on a personal level, either. Which leads me to another question…
Does this mean it doesn’t matter to me? Does it mean that this tale is destined to fail because it seems like even the author doesn’t care? I DO care about this story, though – it’s something that’s very near and dear to me. It’s a story that I’ve been kicking around in my head for at least ten years now, and that I’ve been actively working on its “bible” for at least five years. I need to see this tale told.
So, what do I do? Do I just keep going and hope they discover why it matters? Do I try and brainstorm and shoehorn them into MY why it matters? Do I go off and do something else rather than this story (after all, I have a second completely different story waiting in the wings – my second choice for thesis novel)? Do I….argh… I think the answer to why it matters is pretty important. After all, isn’t motivation the backbone of characterization and plot? Shouldn’t my characters give a shit about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it? They’re not really characters if they don’t; they’re automatons doing my bidding without any soul or personality.
Some of you may be reading this and think I’ve lost my mind. I’m talking about fictional characters that I’ve created as though they were real people. To a writer, they kind of have to be real; after all, do you, as a reader, want to continue reading a book with characters who don’t feel like they’re real people? If, even the most fantastic settings don’t feel like they exist (at least within the context of the book) do you want to continue reading? No, you don’t. Which is the why the “why it matters”, matters.
So, my Sunday visitors, that’s what’s on my mind this week. Perhaps next week we’ll get back to the writer’s toolbox, and I’ll have gotten back on track. In the meantime…if you write, what’s your biggest obstacle when thinking about the big picture of your writing? I’d like to know – let’s talk about it!
Until next time, keep those keys clacking, and have a fantastic week!