Friday, February 23, 2007

Where'm I at?

42,000 words (and happy as Larry)

I'm very much a character-driven writer. Or maybe a better word is situation-driven, since the charcters don't get much input until the defining situation gets rolling. Think North by Northwest: without the goddawful situation he finds himself in, Cary Grant would probably spend all his time being witty at parties.

Anyway, the characters know what they're doing at this point. Some of them hate each other, some love each other, and others are still trying to figure out what they think. Fair enough. At this point, knocking down a thousand or so words a day is cake. Where it gets a little wierd is now that most (And I do only mean most) of the flailing is over, these folks are doing some pretty unsuspected things.

For instance, I had two characters working on one problem in the background for two days (that's story time: probably a month out here on this side of the keyboard). Last night one of the characters found a solution that was simple, elegant, and in all truth she probably would've thought of almost immediately.

Crisis? Disaster? Stop everything and go back to figure out how the hell the story will hang together now that I know this?

Nope. I'm just getting on with it.

By the time I get to the second draft that solution may end up making me rewrite a big swathe of the book. Or it may end up collapsing a few other scenes. Or that problem may have to come out entirely to give some other part of the action more room to breathe. The truth is, at this point I don't really know what's important. By the end I'll know what was a keeper and what wasn't. This stage is about discovery, style and storytelling.

It's a lot of fun. The story's here, trying to tell itself to me. And that's not always the case. I've heaps of fragments that got right under my skin until I started work on them, then turned out not to have the legs to go the distance.

Oh, and for a close, here's the Ten Rules of Thriller Writing. It occurs to me that they can be used to make just about any fiction more gripping, whether literary, romance, or a cozy mystery.

As they say in 12 Step groups, take what you like and leave the rest.

5 comments:

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Pretty nice post, Steve. Insightful thoughts. thx for adding my blog to your links. Its amazing, but every writer you listed are in my top ten. I'm reading one of Pelecanos' Nick Stefanos novels right now.

Charles Gramlich said...

I finally had a bit of a breakthrough on a book I'm working on last night. Introducing a new character seemed to draw everything together and ratchet up everyone's motivation. Fun when that happens.

Anonymous said...

Wayne: Cheers! The Derek Strange ones have a special place in my heart. I'm renting The Wire this week, since Pelecanos and Lehane both write for it. (It's New Zealand - TV's different here)

Charles: Glad to hear it! Chandler always said, when all else fails, bring in the man with the gun.

NOw if someone could just bring in the blogger sign-in that doesn't crash me...

Steve said...

That previous one was me, by the way...

(maybe thinking it's not *all* blogger's fault...)

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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