Friday, June 6, 2014

The perils of being a writer

Blunt Object

Most writers I know will understand.

The other day I was sitting in the waiting room at the dentist's office waiting for my son when the story began to reveal itself.  It was a young girl who began to let me know about her presence and I began getting a sense of her.  I pulled out my writer's journal and began to take notes.  It was mostly a bullet list of characteristics: what her hair and clothes looked like, what was on her iPod (including what it looked like), some of her thoughts and so on and I diligently took notes on what she revealed.

Wednesday morning I had plans to clean my office after the recent cat attack that left it in shambles but, instead, she began telling me her story and I was obliged to record it.  Three chapters in, I realized I still didn't know her name, so I posted a question over at the Writers Unboxed page asking if this had ever happened to anyone before.  A number of others over there told me that happens to them and pointed to other pieces of literature where the characters are never named.


At the end of the first act, five chapters in, she told me her name.

So yes, I wrote 1/3 of a novel not knowing my main character's name.  I knew the name of a couple of kids she hung out with, her teachers and others, but not her name.

There are other oddities in this story so far.  For one, I don't know where it's going.  I know a couple of things that will present themselves, but I don't know how or why yet.  I don't know what happened before the story started to set events into motion.

If I didn't know better, I'd swear I was reading the story, not writing it.

Then I remembered the story J K Rowling told about Sirius Black's death.  She said that right after she wrote the scene she was bawling her eyes out and went to tell her husband.  Her husband told her to just rewrite the scene and keep him alive when Rowling looked at him and said she couldn't because that's where the story went.  I immediately understood but several non-writing friends had the attitude, "That's ridiculous.  Of course you can go back and fix it."

No, no you can't.

So I will let her finish revealing her story to me over the coming week and then go back through with a critical outsider's eye to edit it.  Maybe she will tell me why she doesn't like her name (I'm assuming that's why she's not telling me much about it).  I know she will tell me her back story once she trusts me enough (and yes, I really feel like she's determining if she can trust me or not) and yes I'm keeping my notebook near by for when she starts talking to me again.

It's another one of those perils of being a writer.

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