NaNoWriMo Week 4 – Learning to Write
The story is coming along nicely now. It will be nowhere near finished this month, though. I’ll be lucky if I can get Larin’s childhood covered. When I’ve finished the current chapter (in which he is six), I can skip a couple of years, and then again once he’s eleven or so. And then a timeline would get really helpful!
The characters are coming alive more and more now. Lonna is becoming secretive to the point of being annoying, Lahaseni proud and petulant, and all the others are developing their own personalities too, with little conscious work on my part. That’s one of the things I really like about writing.
I am, however, also paying more attention to show their personalities once they’ve revealed them to me. I hope this is a sign I’m becoming a better writer. 😉
I’m pretty happy with how Liria is turning out, too. I knew she was a little daredevil, but I didn’t want her to become one of those cliché sword-swinging rebellious princesses. I mean, I like Éowyn and Arya Stark and Miriamele and Briony Eddon, but still… I was rather pleased when Liria decided she had no interest in learning to use a sword. Because it looked like fun at first, so she wanted to learn along with her brother, but then she realized it was actually hard work and went, “well, luckily I’m a girl, and don’t have to learn this. Sucks to be a boy!” (Well, not in these exact words.)
I’m also considering which of the characters’ names I can change. I have too many names starting with L – I must have been in love with that letter when I was twelve or so and wrote the first version of what is now called The Bramble Prince. I hope that willingness to change things is also a sign of being a better writer, but it is so hard! They’ve been called Larin, Liria, Lahaseni, Lonna, Luani and Laso for about thirteen years now, and it feels like they won’t be the same person any more if I change their names.
But, of course, that’s up to me. I guess that’s the thing I’m learning: to take a more “active” role – to no longer see myself as someone who just passively “records” the stories that “come to me”, but who can also manipulate and shape them according to my will.
The important thing will be keeping the balance. Allowing the story to develop freely, to surprise myself, but also occasionally push it in a certain direction.
Did I ever post the quote that became my signature on the NaNoWriMo forums this year? Wondering what I should use, I picked up one of my very favourite books, The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams, and there it was, on the first page:
He who is certain he knows the ending of things when he is only beginning them is either extremely wise or extremely foolish; no matter which is true, he is certainly an unhappy man, for he has put a knife in the heart of wonder.
It was meant as an advice for the reader, but I think it applies to writing, too.* Being surprised by your own story is so much fun, and The Bramble Prince has done it a couple of times now, if only in small ways.
And it’s a doubly appropriate quote, since The Dragonbone Chair was the initial inspiration for The Bramble Prince. Not that I can ever hope to be as good a writer as Tad.
I’ve also been in a kind of murderous mood this week. I spent a whole day muttering to myself, “This is all so boring… I should kill someone. But I still need all those characters. But I want to kill someone…”
In the end, I settled for not killing anyone right now, but at least I had someone wounded by an arrow. Which meant I had to spend an awful lot of time tracking down information about arrow wounds and their treatment.
And horses. So much about horses. Every time I think I know everything I need to know, I realize there is more I don’t know. Now I kind of wish I had been one of those horse-obsessed girls, but my experience with horses is limited to three riding lessons on a school trip. So I have to read, read, read now.
My stupid secondary school teacher once told me and my best friend, “You don’t learn anything from writing stories!”
* And I know there was at least one time that Tad was surprised by this particular story, too. Cadrach wasn’t supposed to be nearly so important when he first appeared.