The Story that Snuck Up on Me

Sometimes I wonder if I’m just writing self-indulgent wank. But then I realized, you can’t win as a writer. Either you’re writing something that doesn’t interest you, in which case you’re a sellout, or you’re writing what you love, which makes you a self-indulgent wanker. If you can’t win, you might as well enjoy the game.

I wasn’t going to write the thing, but I did anyway.

An entirely different story was supposed to go here. See, I always had a fondness for ensembles. So much of my favorite media have this in common. Dragonsdawn and Red Mars, each a story of a colony planet where every colonist plays a small but significant role. The New Pornographers, an indie rock band with not one, not two, but four lead singers. Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, both with large casts and no clear main character. This is what I wanted to replicate. I didn’t want a main character.

You may have heard writers talk about characters writing themselves. I used to think this was utter bunk, and then I started writing. The user Gilead (linked above) hit the nail on the head:

For me it’s more that after enough writing gets done, my characters have been in enough situations that I’ve established a baseline of behaviour for each of them. Which means that if I want one of them to act in a certain way, the critical part of my mind might cut in and say ‘That isn’t in line with what they’ve done before, think of something else’.

The idea of characters writing themselves is not the New Age woo it sounds like. It’s just a way of saying that characters crystalize as more is written about them, until they reach a point where their existing structure limits and defines what they can do and how they can develop. And the more iterations they go through, the stronger they get. And the stronger they get, the more “real” they feel and the more I want to write about them.

Maybe focusing on my strongest characters isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe the others will come into their own with time and patience. No need to force it.

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This entry was posted in interludes, The writing process, update log. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Story that Snuck Up on Me

  1. aprilholland@comcast.net says:

    Emily, You’re discussion of your process is almost as interesting as your work. You might eventually have a whole book for writers. Love you!

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