Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Houston, we have a plot

As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, when I last wanted to sit down with my novel, 3 of the characters told me that the main plot made no sense. Well, I discovered that it's because what a fourth character wants to do makes little sense, but she has to try in order for her to find out it make no sense.

Some people say to write a description of each character before you write the novel. These characters seem real to me and that's not how I get to know people. It also doesn't make much sense to me since the description would be what the character says about themselves, which is a limited view. How someone sees themselves and how the world sees them can be diametrically different. And the person can have no clue for years until some event happens to break their view of themselves and get them to see a touch of how others see them. Also people are different in different situations. And yes, those are two of the themes of my novel.

I'm not knocking describing characters if it works for you. People have different ways of getting to know their characters. Maybe if I believed in omniscience as an attainable property by humans, I'd be more into the character description deal.

So I thought about what would happen if I put these characters together in the setting I had devised. And I now have the main plot and a plot and character development for each of the main characters. I am a lot closer towards a proposal. It sounds pretty simple. And I don't know why I didn't do it before. I think before I actually sat down and read a few books about writing novels, I thought plot making on a novel scale was some sort of mystical gift denied to me, unworthy writer. Though I've always hated novels where the plot didn't come directly from the character's actions. Of course the devil's in the details as they say, but I feel more comfortable now.

In college, I'd contemplate a 50-page paper with horror before I had a topic. How the hell was I going to fill 50 blank pages with words. Words about what? I knew I'd just get lost in that blinding blank white. Once I had a topic and I got excited about it, I was still scared, but less so. Then I started to research the topic and I was less scared. I had a direction. I had three pages and I knew I could expand it into 50 pages. That's where I am now.

I'm not thinking about how much longer a novel is. I know I can do it. People are much more complicated and interesting than a research topic and I'm writing about people. Also what I've described so far is pretty dense and needs pages and pages to show. In a research paper, you tell the reader, give them the conclusions. That takes less words. Go plot go.

1 comment:

gconnor said...

I think you're on the right track. "Write a description of the character" might work for some people, but I really prefer to get in their shoes and write from their perspective.

The writing you actually submit for the novel will probably be in third-person but usually there is a "point of view" character, the one who the reader is virtually "following around". In most cases this will be the character whose thoughts and perceptions are recorded. That is, when Jane is your POV character, it's natural to say "Jane felt X", but it would be incongruous to say "John felt X" two paragraphs down.

But, you can also switch POV characters (like at a chapter break) if you want to, either to reveal something to the audience that the main character can't know yet, or just to expose some character development. So, this is how I usually "get in character" for a character, I use that character as the POV person and just start writing. As you hinted at, this is also a great way to test-drive your setting.