Rip It, Write It, Draw It: Cats

Since NaNoWriMo has been on my mind for the past month, it’s been a while since I’ve actually done an exercise. When I flipped through in search of one, this caught my eye: Fill the page with as many words that rhyme with “cat” as you can think of.

Rhyming has never really been my forte, but I decided to give it a shot. It was definitely harder than I was expecting. And I decided that it wouldn’t be fair to give myself an indefinite amount of time, so after about 20 minutes of pondering on and off, I set it aside.

Of course, rhyming gets easier when you remember the old poet’s trick of sight and slant rhyme. Sight rhyme is when you use words that look like they should rhyme, even though they actually don’t when said. And slant… well, those are the ones that kinda, sorta rhyme. Like orange and door hinge…

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As I was looking for options, I also remembered something that my linguistics professor taught me back in college. Our ears are trained to either listen to the final consonant or the vowel in a word. Depending on what you hear, you might choose your slant rhymes differently. For example, if someone asks for a “copy” shop, there’s a possibility that someone might point you in the direction of a “coffee” shop because that’s what they heard. So, I played with that a little bit too.

Oh, and remember back in the 90’s when people tried to make phat into a compliment? I got a good laugh out of adding that in there.

Can you think of more words that rhyme (truly, slant, sight, or otherwise) with cat? Are you good at writing, or are you bad at it like me?

 


The Reinvention of a Character

It’s been a week since my last NaNoWriMo update, and there’s still so much work to do on the novel. Maybe I’ll have the draft done by the beginning of the new year? Maybe I should make that an official goal.

As I continue to work on it — albeit on a much slower pace — I continue to process the things that have happened and how they connect and will shape the things to come. (Well, the ones I know will come. Being a pantser means that I don’t have that many details figured out yet.)

There is one thing I’d love to talk about, but I haven’t figured out how to discuss it without major spoilers. It feels especially wrong to spoil a story that not only isn’t published but also isn’t even complete yet.

So instead, let’s go back to the summer of 2016. I was working on the novel back then but was running into a major road block. The characters were starting to go silent on me. They were lethargic and uninterested in the story, so I took a couple of months off to let them brew more before giving them a fresh start in November.

While all of the characters had fallen into a rut, it was really a duo of minor characters who were the worst. They were cousins, and they started off all right, but they had become indistinguishable from one another and completely flat. It was pathetic.

Whenever this happens, there’s always a huge question about what to do. Do the characters stay but go through some personality therapy or does that part of the story just need reinvented?

I ended up opting for reinventing. To do that, there were a few things that I needed to assess:

  • Why do these characters need to be in the story?
  • What role(s) are they filling?
  • Is there another way to do this?

The answer to the first and second was that I needed at least one more person on the spaceship to handle the engines and air systems, so that meant the character couldn’t be completely eliminated. There’s more to it, but that was really the most important part.

The third question opened up some possibilities. Instead of being two cousins, what if it was just one character instead? There’s something about the dynamic of two people who know each other well, but that wasn’t cutting it. So I decided to trim down to one character and make him more dynamic by himself.

So far, that seems to be the right choice. Of course, who knows what will happen in the next draft?

What do you do when your characters fall into a rut? Have you combined/completely replaced characters in a story?


Mean Writers

Earlier this week, I finished NaNoWriMo. In my last post, I alluded to some of the experiences that came with this draft. Really, I was thinking of one in particular that affected me more deeply than I was expecting.

I have a tendency to become very emotionally invested in characters. While this isn’t limited to my own characters by any means, there’s a special connection with them. So whenever they go through hard times, it gets to me. I do it because it’s necessary for a good story, but, especially in the first draft, it’s not an easy thing to do.

Though this is the first time I’ve met the protagonist of the side story that took up 30,000 words of my novel, I have a deep connection with her. Unlike most of my other characters, she started as a picture that I found on Pinterest. A redheaded teenager with a spritely smile and just the right clothes. I’ve spent a couple of years wondering who she was and how she tied in. Then when the idea for the side story came about, I knew it was her.

She’s young and her world starts off fine, but it doesn’t stay that way for long. Things get dark. There’s a strange mixture of fear and pleasure that comes with that. Pleasure because the story falls together and creates the tension that makes a story great. But fear because it’s never easy to watch characters suffer the way that they have to in a great story. Especially when you care about them.

As with any story, it became darker and more difficult as time went on. But when it hit its worst point, I found myself reacting differently than I normally do. I felt truly awful. I felt like a terrible human being for what I just put her through. For the way I destroyed her life. I wrote the worst of it in one sitting, before school, and after leaving the computer, I couldn’t shake the heaviness in my chest.

I couldn’t shake it for most of the day. At school, I told my mom and my story-loving students. Anyone who I thought would appreciate the feelings I was going through. Part of me didn’t understand why this affected me so much, but part of me did. I’d written some pretty terrible things before, but I always knew how it would be okay, so I could console myself with that. Yes, the character is suffering now, but I already know the victory that’s about to come.

Her story didn’t have that. I can’t say more without spoilers, but suffice to say, the story ended more as a defeat. I know that’s how reality is sometimes, but that’s not normally what I write. Or even what I typically read. Usually, there is a bright side, a redemption, a victory. Life is hard and sad enough sometimes, and I like to use fiction as an escape and an encouragement.

It was an eye-opening experience to be sure. It will be interesting to see how I feel on the next draft, now that I know how her story ultimately ends.

Have you ever done something to characters that emotionally affected you? What kinds of endings do you prefer?


NaNoWriMo Week 4 Update

Current Day: 29
Word Count: 50,760
Par: 48,333

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I might be a day late posting, but I’m right on time with NaNoWriMo. I crossed the line late on Sunday night.

The Result

After a month of reimaging and hours of typing, I’m happy with where this novel is headed. Much to my surprise, it’s not done yet.

All of the other novels I’ve written so far have hovered just over 50,000 words. So far, that’s all the longer anything has needed to be. This one, though, is different. I think it still has another 20,000 words waiting to happen. Maybe even more. Only time will tell.

More on some of the experiences that have come with this story tomorrow.

How have you been doing with your goals?


NaNoWriMo Week 3 Update

Current Day: 20
Word Count: 32,295
Par: 33,333

Instead of weekends being the time when I get ahead, it seems like it’s when I get behind. But that’s okay. I’m still on track and things are still going better than expected.

On Saturday, I made an important transition. The first story came to an end. To think, this is supposed to be just a side story. Vital to the overall plot–there isn’t a novel without it–but more glimpses of someone else’s life woven into the main story than a main attraction. Now, it feels more interesting than what I’ve planned for the real protagonist and has turned out much longer than expected: 30,742 words. Not that I’m complaining. I really like how it turned out.

Now, it’s time to finish out NaNoWriMo with the real protagonist. She’s seen how the other story has played out, so she has some new thoughts on where she’d like her story to go. I think the fresh take is just what she needs.

How are your November projects going?


25 Years Later

For all of my fellow fairytale fans out there, Tuesday is a special occasion. While most people couldn’t stop talking about about Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in September, that wasn’t the actual 25th anniversary of the movie. The real anniversary is Tuesday, November 22.

Even though I’ll be in the thick of writing by then, a little background noise won’t hurt anything… though it might add some unintentional French influence into whatever part of the novel that I’m writing at the time.

So as we wait for November 22 to come, here’s a video of the original Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury) singing “Beauty and the Beast.” Just in case you haven’t heard it yet… or haven’t heard it enough already.

 


Rip It, Write It, Draw It: Hope

As I flipped through pages for a new prompt to complete a few weeks ago, one struck me. The prompt is simple: draw a tree but don’t add any branches yet. Save the branches for major life events and watch the tree fill up.

My first thought was to add some branches with events that have happened already: graduating high school and college, getting married, becoming a teacher, starting this blog, getting the cat. But then I stopped myself. This seems an appropriate time to start a new tree filled with new things.

Life has been complicated for the past couple of years. Things I thought would be easy turned out to be difficult, and life has taken some turns I wasn’t expecting. But I feel like a new chapter is finally about to begin, and that’s what this tree represents. Hope for the future and for a new journey. A strong foundation filled with faith and patience and perseverance that’s about to be covered in new growth.

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So I wait for the first new branch and for the opening pages of a new chapter, and I relish the anticipation of what comes next.