Authorguy's Blog

Stop trying to write me and write me!

Posted on: July 28, 2010


Writer’s block is not something I usually suffer from.  Sorry.  ‘From which I usually suffer.’  It’s my internal editor/critic who causes most of my problems.

As a pantser I usually just follow my characters around and see what they do, with only an idea of a plot which is usually embedded in the situation.  Joseph Marquand is a werewolf hunter investigating a werewolf attack on a lunar base populated by two different types of werewolves.  What happens next?  Well, it depends on which character you’re following.  My storyteller Jasec is telling tales to a variety of listeners.  What he tells and how he tells it varies with his audience and his purpose, a larger context that has a life of its own. 

Sometimes the story I try to tell is not the story I thought I was telling.  I try to find the logic of the characters, figure out what they’ll do in a given situation.  But characters, if they’re created right to begin with, aren’t necessarily logical, any more than any other person.  If they were perfectly logical they’d be computers or Vulcans, both of whom make boring lead characters.  In order to make them interesting we have to give them human characteristics, at the risk of having them act OOC or completely upset the internal dynamic of the universe we write in.  If Vulcans start acting like us, only with their greater strength, intelligence, and lifespans, why are humans the dominant power in the Federation?    If vampires are just super-sexy, bloodsucking people, why wouldn’t everyone on Earth want to be one?  Where’s the downside?

All of which is just my way of saying that I’m straying from the point.  A properly made character does what he wants to do, and trying to force him to do the logical thing, or the plot-advancing thing, just ain’t gonna work.  Men usually don’t know what the plot of their lives is, and they wouldn’t necessarily go out of their way to advance it if they did.  A character who only did that sort of thing would be a cardboard cutout, and no one would care.

So I don’t suffer from writer’s block, but I do suffer from character-block.  Sometimes they just don’t want to do what I want them to do, and the story won’t let me write it until I stop trying to write some other story.

Hasn’t this ever happened to you?

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9 Responses to "Stop trying to write me and write me!"

Great post, I’m the same way. Sometimes I *think* I know what’s going to happen next when I’m writing, but it really is the characters running the show. I’m just along for the ride.

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I know where I want to go, but how we all get there, that’s not always up to me. Actually, it’s almost never up to me!

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Good post. I find the whole writing process is a series of little blocks – I want such and such to happen, but something won’t let it. Then I have to find what must happen instead. You’ve explained it very well here.

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Thank you, although I don’t think it explains anything to someone who hasn’t already felt it.

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Yes, this happened to me recently. I set out to write a novel using the Don Giovanni and Don Juan legends as a backdrop. I needed to skew some of the characters and their actions to the contours of the show–a la The Jane Austen Book Club. Sometimes I feel like I’m shoehorning characters into the story to uphold the premise–that the book mirrors the storyline of Don Giovanni.

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I nearly always write that way, which is to say, it developes itself from the characters and situations I put them in, at least until near the end. I have often heard the advice that you have to plan your ending early on, in order to make sure you get there. I would rephrase it to say that characters should have a goal, preferable a couple of characters should have goals that are important enough to keep them periodically trying to achieve it, even if they get distracted along the way. One of my stories (that started as many of my stories have, as a bad attempt at a short story), I finally did get to the ending I was aiming for; it just took three books to get there, with characters insisting on going elsewhere repeatedly along the way. I also found that I usually start them on their way well before the real story starts, but while I have lots of scenes that will never be used as a result, I also know how my characters will behave when they get to the important stuff. I put them in motion, give them a setting, then they take the wheel for the scene.

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I often know where they’re trying to go, but quite often by the time they get there the meaning or significance of it has completely changed, or the actions I saw them doing became part of a much larger series of actions that achieved a totally different purpose.

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Yeah I must be nutty. Because I can’t write without plotting to save my life. Not even a short story. As a matter of fact, I just finished writing an entire chapter because I’d ended up writing myself in a corner. *sigh* You guys are lucky.

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Nutty? Not at all. We each have our own ways of doing things, and some things make more sense to us than others. Or, as Author Guy once will say to a mighty warrior, in a similar situation:

“I don’t get it,” said YHP.
“No reason why you should,” I acknowledged, sitting down to get busy once more. “Not your skill set. God knows I wouldn’t want to smite a Dark Lord.”

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