Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First Drafts, Character Sketches, and Why You Should Never Read While Writing

So now that the first draft of my latest piece is done, I find myself reflecting on the story and the characters. Sometimes when I think about them I get glowy-glowy happy. Other times, I hate them. -_- Yes, I'm an emotional person (I think it keeps me interesting!), but it really has to do with me vascillating between scenes and the motivations that drive my characters.

I'll explain.

I'm a character-based writer. I absolutely write characters who tell stories... I don't tell stories that have characters in them. I am always more interested in characters and how the plot affects my characters rather than how the characters effect the plot. But, it should be noted that when I start writing, I don't define my characters. At all. I don't say, "This character is this type of person, and this is what they like and don't like, this is what motivates them." I just start writing and let the characters unfold in front of me.

This can cause problems.

For example, in starting to re-read my latest story last night, I noticed that I had started the main character (her name is Annabelle, btw) as being friends with Trevor and hanging out at his house. She was talking to Will (our hero of the story) at the time, so it made sense. But then, because Trevor was the love interest keeping Annabelle and Will apart, I had to make it so that Annabelle loved Trevor from afar... And suddenly Annabelle had never hung out with Trevor outside of a group.

You may be thinking, "Well, that's just inconsistency that can be cleaned up in editing." You may be right. But it's those little minute details that if I had predetermined prior to writing would have made the whole story more consistent and reduced editing time.

On the flip side, I think it would have made the whole thing a HELL of a lot more boring. Why write something when you know exactly what's going to happen?

When I was seventeen or so, those e-mails "About Me!" were popular. They were about a zillion questions that you answered and then e-mailed back out to your friends, who filled in their answers and e-mailed back to you. Once, after reading a book on writing that suggested creating character sketches, I decided I would fill out one of these for some characters I was working on.

I never did anything with them again, and actually, when I finished, I decided that I loathed them. I think I still have those saved docs somewhere.

And it's strange... When I first started writing, I HAAAAAAATED going back through and cleaning up my drafts. I mean, I hated it with a PASSION. I couldn't STAND editing my work. It was too hard for me to even change a sentence of something that I had created. (Even now, when I edit, I save each edit as a different version. I don't like to part with things. I'm kind of a pack rat.) I think at the time I was afraid that I would lose something valuable that had come out of me the first-go around.

Now that I'm older, and having edited hundreds (possibly thousands) of pages of my work, I'm proud of editing. To my surprise, I discovered today that I was actually looking forward to going back and revisiting scenes. Now that I know the end for the characters and the direction they go off in, and their motivations and likes and dislikes, suddenly it seems that much more fun to go back in and put in little hints here and there about what's to come for them in the future. I WANT to draw it out and enjoy the chase.

Weird, huh?

Here's what I DON'T want:

I was reading this fantastic manga called "Parfait Tic" while I was still writing, during my occasional breaks. As I fell more and more in love with the character Ichi, I thought, "Geez... Wouldn't Will be super awesome if he were more like this?" And, "Wow, that's a cool idea... I should put something like this in!"


That's a problem. That's a big, big problem.

When you start to look at other character types, and let those influence your works in progress and your characters, you destroy the honesty you have in your characters. You can't suddenly change your character mid-story because you liked a new character type better... You either have to start over from scratch (and therefore recreate the interactions the character has with others), or start a new story with the new character type (which can derail your current work-in-progress, leaving it forever a WIP).

And, let's say you're writing a story about... I don't know... Zombies. But you start reading a love story where they go on a picnic in the park and you think, "I'll put a picnic in the park in there!" ... Consistency, how we miss thee. Of course, that's an extreme, but you get what I'm saying, right?

So if you're easily influenced by other writing (and I am, I'll admit it, I totally am) then you should never pick up another piece of literature while you're writing your own stories. You'll regret it.

So there's my advice, thoughts, and rants to all of you out there in writer-land! <3


Southern Princess said...

lol! Love the combination entry of advice, thoughts, and rants all in one. Its like One Stop Blogging. I totally understand the reading something then it creeps into your own story. It is annoying. For me it has caused me to notice a flaw in my character or cause me to try to re-write someone that obviously if they could stand in front of me would scream "I WOULD NEVER SAY THAT!!" alas, their scream is only heard by me so it is up to me to pay attention to them or to ignore them. It is good to know that it is not just me who discovers sometimes that creeping of inconsistency. I am so glad you are on Blogger now! I love the BLOG TO BOOK option too, so cool.

Vivian Marie said...

LOL! Thanks!! Sadly, this is how my mind works. I don't actually know what that says about me. LOL! And I want you to know that you are the reason I'm on Blogger. You and you alone! I wanted to be able to follow your blog!

I'm glad I'm not the only one who has that consistency problem... It's nice not to be alone!

Seriously, the blog-to-book option is amazing. And it looks SO COOL. If I blogged about something other than writing, I would totally make one and give them out instead of Christmas cards!