The Night Before

NaNoWriMo is about to start in just under an hour. How do I feel about this? Completely cussing terrified. Okay, I’m excited too. I’m also somewhat awed. Awed at how one person can have had over a month in which to plan, plan, and plan their novel and yet still feel completely unprepared when the time comes to actually start writing said novel. If I were to write this blog in train-of-thought style (which I’m almost doing right now, but regardless), it would go something like this: “Nyah! NaNoWriMo is starting in only a few hours! But I’m not ready! I don’t have a plot! Still! And I can’t start writing until tomorrow afternoon! Maybe I should just stay up past midnight tonight and write then. No, I’ll pass out. But not if I have coffee! What are you talking about? You don’t drink caffeine! The stress, the stress, the stress…..”

And that is why I don’t write in train of thought style (mostly). Nonetheless, I did say in a previous post that I would write another one about NaNoWriMo. As NaNoWriMo is starting in literally only a handful of minutes, and I doubt I will have anything close to blog content during November, now seems as good a time as any to get this done. Please excuse my rambling here – I’m kind of completely freaking out about NaNoWriMo and attempting to get a billion things done before it starts. So, let’s begin!

At this point in my novel planning, which is pretty much at it’s end, there is only one aspect of the plan that is up to the level of development I would like to have it at: my characters. In spite of all the havoc going on with my plot – including the stages at which it simply didn’t exist – my characters have managed to survive. They have been great fun to create, and I am actually really happy with them. That said, I’ve still encountered some issues with them.

The first issue I came across was the characters’ ages. As I mentioned before, they are children. But children at what age? This was quite tricky for me to decide, as one of my pet peeves with writing is when an author gets their characters’ ages wrong. And I don’t mean numerically. What I’m talking about is when you have a character who acts a completely different age to that which they are referred to as being, or when you have characters without any of the issues that almost always accompany those of their age. I read a book some time ago called The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu. I should have liked it, what with its charming concept and suggestion of Tim Burton-esque feel (at least that’s what the artwork brought to mind). But I didn’t. I did not enjoy it, because I didn’t like the characters. Not only were the characters themselves lacking in personality and relatability, they also acted in a way that jarred with their ages. This was improved as they turned into teenagers and adults, but when they were children it was obviously not right. Other authors seem to suffer from the issue of appearing to create a character, and then afterwards deciding “Oh, I know! I’ll make them a teenager”. This pseudo-teenager will be miraculously exempt from any of the restrictions of parental control or schoolwork, but will have all of the benefits of adulthood mixed in with the youth and superficial attitude of teenagerhood. These books are unfortunately easy to find – or accidentally run into, as the case usually is – and sometimes it gets to the point at which you find it hard to believe that the author was ever actually a child or teenager.

But I don’t want to seem too negative about this. There are plenty of authors, such as J. K. Rowling, who do an excellent job of writing characters at all ages. My point is that this is an issue I feel strongly about, and I badly wanted to get right. As a result, I paid very close attention to my characters’ ages and corresponding characteristics and abilities as they were developed. Eventually, I decided to make them all aged around 12 to 13. This provided enough maturity for them to have some independence and their own ideas and opinions, without them being too responsible or level-headed for the story to progress as it is meant to. It also presented some problems, though. How would they get around Arcandale? Surely they couldn’t wander around alone; that would just be plain irresponsible of their parents, especially as this is a place where vampires and werewolves roam the streets. It also meant that they would be limited by their school, and probably wouldn’t be as advanced mentally and magical power-wise. Even though my novel is low fantasy, it’s funny that I still have to avoid breaking the willing suspension of disbelief. See? I’m learning already.

Another point which was something of a challenge was creating and developing the races of the Others, such as witches, vampires, werewolves, and so on. Though I have to admit, this was more fun than challenging. Having the freedom to create what you want, how you want it, on your own terms is one of my favourite things about writing, and this came into full force with the Other races. For instance, I’m sure everyone here will have heard about some form of vampires. Was it Dracula’s vampires? Twilight’s? Could they turn into bats? Did they sparkle in the sun? It’s common to prefer one form of vampire to another, or think that one is more “realistic”. But the amazing thing about writing is that you can have whatever form you like, or you can create an entirely new one with elements of previous forms. Personally, I chose to create a race of vampires which had the classic traits of needing to drink blood, sleeping in coffins, turning into bats, and having an aversion to garlic and sunlight, but mixed up a little to apply more to real-world situations. One of my families, the vampire Hemsons, was a fun creative exercise to play with in this regard. They react to sunlight as a human would when exposed to incredibly strong sunlight – they get badly burnt – but they are much more sensitive to it than humans. Garlic makes them come up with what could be compared to allergic reactions. They drink blood, but they either buy it as literally a bag of blood or keep small animals such as chickens to drink from. Sleeping in coffins is really just a cultural thing. They can turn into bats……because they’re vampires. Hey, we can have some mythology in here, can’t we?

With other races, including witches, there were not so many strict traits defined by previous incarnations, so there was much more freedom. The most major thing I decided to do in the area of witches was probably to decide that both male and female witches would be referred to as just that: witches. Groundbreaking, I know. I even invented my own race, the scryers. Although the traditional idea of a scryer is someone who can use objects like mirrors and crystal balls to see into the future, I basically used the term for a race who are along the lines of psychics or telepaths. They have limited mind reading ability, and can also obtain information from objects that a person has touched. As an example, they might be able to touch an envelope that a person has sent and figure out what the sender was thinking or feeling at the time of touching the item, or possibly even who the person was. It all depends on the circumstances and the individual scryer’s ability, as most of the racial powers in The Other Town do.

Although I could easily sit and write about it for hours and hours, that’s all I’m going to put up on novel writing and The Other Town for now. This is probably going to be one the last posts on my blog for a while, sadly. NaNoWriMo beckons, along with a pile of schoolwork (clearly I’m not as free as idealised teenage novel characters), and the need to actually maintain a life. Still, maybe I can skip that last bit……..

PS: Happy Halloween everybody!

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10 Responses to The Night Before

  1. DBP says:

    I really enjoyed reading this, especially the “But not if I have coffee! What are you talking about? You don’t drink caffeine!” part. By the way, I couldn’t help but imagine Doctor Nick saying “Happy Halloween everybody!” at the end =)

    • Mary says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! Maybe I should write in train-of-thought style more often…..Ah, now I can’t read it in any way other than Dr. Nick’s voice!

  2. nevillegirl says:

    *stares* Our stories are very similar… I’m writing about teenaged vampires, werewolves, and “magically gifted” kids.

    And this: “Personally, I chose to create a race of vampires which had the classic traits of needing to drink blood, sleeping in coffins, turning into bats, and having an aversion to garlic and sunlight, but mixed up a little to apply more to real-world situations. They react to sunlight as a human would when exposed to incredibly strong sunlight – they get badly burnt – but they are much more sensitive to it than humans. Garlic makes them come up with what could be compared to allergic reactions. They drink blood, but they either buy it as literally a bag of blood or keep small animals such as chickens to drink from.” is basically exactly what I chose. One of my next scenes shows my vampire main character helping to sneak into a hospital to steal blood bags. :D

    • Mary says:

      Ack, those do sound pretty similar :/. I assure you this is not plagiarism! I think the difference is probably mainly that your book involves characters who go to a school for “magically gifted” kids. The kids in my story do too, but they also live in an effectively “magically gifted” town. Hopefully our stories won’t end up being too similar in the end! One of the scenes I’m writing involves a vampire boy drinking a bag of blood when he’s not supposed to, because his mother only wants him drinking “organic” blood :-) My vampires can just buy their blood in town, seeing as they don’t it as weird there. A sneaking into a hospital scene sounds exciting, though!

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yeah, I didn’t think it was. :P Vampires are fun to write about, especially if they don’t sparkle!

      • Mary says:

        Haha, yes they are :-) Witches are proving interesting, too – the only challenge is making it so they can’t do everything!

  3. Ruth says:

    Damn it, I have so much to catch up on your blog! But GOOD LUCK! I see you have a good word count on the go already. I am so massively impressed (in a non patronising way as much as that may sound, I don’t mean it like that!) that you’re doing NaNoWriMo. I hope it’s a blast of coffee-swigging-all-nighter-novel-writing-cussing-craziness. Tonight I started my first page of the book of my epic Spanish journey, I don’t think it counts as NanNoWriMo but I hope to get all 44 days written about by Christmas! Good luck again and maybe your quietness on the blog front, while you write your novel, will give me a chance to catch up and comment on your blog! love Ruth

    • Mary says:

      Hi Ruth :-) I have been pretty quiet on the blogging front, which is why I am only just replying to your comment! Thanks for the encouragement! (And I understand it wasn’t meant sarcastically). It’s so exciting that you’re writing a book about your Spanish journey :-D I suppose it could count for NaNoWriMo if you got 50,000 words of it done by end of November, but I don’t know if you want to rush it. Good luck with it, anyway! If you do put anything about it on your blog, I can’t wait to read it.

  4. Ruth says:

    It’s December now, did you do it did you do it did you do it?!?!!! The suspense is killing me haha! Can’t wait to hear all about it :)

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