I haven’t said much about these except in my serial novel Demimind earlier. You know, like, years earlier.
It hasn’t quite been a year since I finished Demimind. It feels like it has, but it hasn’t. Having written a grand total of one novel, I can tell you that it is altogether a different beast from writing, say, one short story. For one thing, short stories are shorter. I’ve said that before.
A novel has time. It can grow. The characters don’t need to make sense right away. The plot can unravel before your eyes like an old, worn scroll. Sometimes it unravels quickly, sometimes it unravels slowly, but always, ALWAYS it unravels. Even if you reach the end and realize the scroll will keep going, it unravels. Without plot, the novel cannot be driven. How do you drive it forward?
Patience is key. The first impulse is to get done with everything, is to write down all this exposition about everything that has ever happened ever. You’re excited, you want to tell everyone that your character is secretly in love with Rosaline and is scared to death of rats and never has liked the color pink- well you can do all that, but I like to sprinkle it in. I like to stretch the development of my characters out a little. If you put everything there is to know about each character out there instantly- what do you have left? What more is there to say?
Characters are the plot. They drive the plot, they live the plot and breathe it. Not all of them, but the main characters? They are both slaves and masters of it. You cannot have characters without plot. They need it to survive. Everyone- even super villains!- should have a little backstory even if it’s something like ‘This monster was just waiting in the trees for the party to pass’. It can be as complex as ‘The goblin Larry was adopted by an orc and an elf when his parents were killed in a forestfire. Though horribly scarred, he grew up as quite a nice person and was vegetarian all the way through high school until one time between classes his friend snuck some meat into his afternoon lunch and since then he has loved meat.’
If you ever put that much exposition in all at once it probably won’t be that great to look at. You can space it out more and give tidbits of history at a time. Now, I can only speak for me, but one thing I love to do is have characters exposit trivia. Not out of nowhere, not because a character ‘magically does not know anything about the town he spent three years living in’, but because there is an honest need- or compulsion- for the trivia to be mentioned. I don’t like walls of exposition- it tends to break story immersion for me, so it’s not something I like to include in my novels. If it’s necessary or something the character just does as a character trait or even a general whim, that’s fine. In the actual meat of the text, it can be disorientating and can even pop me right out of the story again. Exposition can be the most boringest thing.
So now you know one secret- exposition! In moderation, in time. That’s how I like to do it. I can’t remember now if I did that for Demimind- see how I am??- but it’s how I like to write now.
Next on the long list of things I need to relate… While plot is essential, characters are even more so. And characters twist the plot. It could start going one way and twist the other. If you have plot twisting the characters, it’s probably from the machinations of another character. Characters mess with characters, then, not plot. One common theme seems to be something like inevitability.
I don’t like that. To some, perhaps in my book Demimind it seems inevitable that one of the Seasons needs to die.
In fact, I think while talking about it, I was wondering who I needed to kill off. Uh uh. Not anymore.
In my books, I prefer to leave inevitability out of it. So-called Fate means little in most of my stories. If a character’s actions and personality lead it to do something and no one tries to stop it, I think to myself ‘Huh, that’s interesting.’
The characters’ actions should be what MAKE the plot, not vice versa. At the least that’s how I roll with my stories. When reading I don’t want to know exactly what will happen next usually. If I know exactly what will happen and how each character will react, what’s the point of reading on further? Without that element of unknown, without, say, prophecy or Fate, I feel like it’s a lot easier to push the characters further. I think that may be part of the reason so many prophecies in stories are so open-ended. That may just be wishful thinking though. When J.K. Rowling did her Harry Potter series (which I love as a kid and am jealous of as an adult), one of the things I noticed was that her prophecy kept us guessing.
WHICH ONE LIVES AT THE END???? IT IS A MYSTERY!!! 😕
Though of course, we all guessed that it was that Harry guy. Unless you had your bets on the almighty Voldemort in which case you seriously know nothing about the way stories work!! 😦
Everyone knows the good guys win every single time. Seriously!
That’s all I have for now, guys, gals and others.