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No Problems? No Plot!

November 1, 2010

By the time this post is published, I’ll just be putting pen to paper and starting my third NaNoWriMo novel. I’ve posted about it before, but since then, the story hasn’t grown much. The ending grows ever more complicated, but most of my characters are still nameless and I don’t know what happens between the first scene and the hideously complicated ending.

The NaNoWriMo motto is, ‘No plot? No problem?’ For me, it’s the other way round:

The idea behind ‘Der Ritter mit dem roten Regenschirm/The Knight with the Red Umbrella’ is to poke fun at the Fantasy genre and especially at the quests the characters often go on (nothing wrong with that per se, I love Fantasy, and I love quests. It’s just that I get bored with having one evil villain that needs to be defeated. The way I see it, good or bad is a matter of perspective: nobody thinks s/he him/herself is bad.) When my two groups of characters, a show-fighting troupe from an Austrian medieval market, and a motley group of fantastically armoured warriors from Castlefest, are brought to Fairytale Land, both are told the other group is evil, and must be found and defeated. But who is really evil, then? Is anyone?

But the difficulty is this: If I want to send them on a quest to defeat the ‘villain’, they must be faced with problems along the way. Nobody ever just marches right across the country, finds the villain and has their big showdown. They must be attacked, get lost, almost starve, get side-tracked, fall in love…

But I don’t have any of those problems. And thus, I have no plot.

My handwriting folder: Every year, I stick more things onto it, wordcount tallies (every tally mark represents 1000 words written), inspiration pictures, funny quotes…

My previous two novels didn’t have much more plot to begin with, either. But they had characters. Last year’s ‘Daughters of Shaomay’ was set in a town I had made up nearly a decade ago, so I knew the people who lived there. In 2008, I didn’t know the characters of ‘Quest of the Midget Knight’ (another Fantasy-parody-ish story) well yet, but they had names, at least, names that in a way determined who they had to be (long story, but basically the entire novel was built on a list of names, or rather words turned into names. Maybe I’ll explain some time.) This year, I feel like I’ve got nothing.

But oh well. If the worst comes to the worst, I’ll just write the first scene, and then the ending, and try to get 50,000 words out of that. But maybe I’ll be able to cobble something resembling a plot together after all, from random things like the Bagpipes of Death, magic underwear, glass mountains, things from the Fantasy Dare Thread on the NaNo forums, the Travelling Shovel of Death… Oooh, I just had an idea. It makes no sense, but sense doesn’t matter during November. As long as it increases the wordcount, anything goes.

And there is still the last-minute planning in the last few hours of October, and maybe my fellow novelists will throw some crazy ideas at me before the clocks strike midnight and we start our Witching Write-In.

The inside of the handwriting folder, with my daily wordcounts, paper bags with teabags and ink cartridges for my fountain pen, pens, post-its, two NaNoWriMo versions of E.A. Poes ‘The Raven’ and my titles. It contains notes, writing paper, granola bars (my favourite writing snack), and a bar of reward chocolate for every 10,000 words.

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