NaNoWriMonday: A Sneak Peek At What I’ve Been Working On

This time I’m fully aware that it’s Tuesday and not Monday, but I spent most of my day yesterday working on a project for school. I don’t want to leave you without NaNoWriMonday, so you still get it, just a day late!

My word count: 4,000

I have a special treat for our second-to-last NaNoWriMonday! This week, I’ll share an excerpt from what I’ve written so far for NaNo. These are my words, so please, do yourself a favor and don’t steal (unless you’re Swiper the Fox; but even then, don’t do it).

Here is your first, exclusive look at a scene from “Prisoner”:

Jonathan herded him towards an office-like room, away from row upon row of cells. Mason, the head Caretaker, sat at a mahogany desk, seemingly waiting for them. Finn swallowed nervously. Mason was a large man in his forites – tall and strong and quite possibly able to kill someone if he glared at them for too long. Jonathan wasn’t that big of a deal. Even the other Caretakers could be handled. But Mason. He was in charge, and he was the living definition of cruel.

“I heard you got into some trouble, number 814.” That was another thing about Mason. He numbered the prisoners and called them by such. Finn had never heard him call anyone but the other Caretakers by their name.

“I – I’m not certain how that information reached you already-” Jonathan twisted his arm back a little, “sir.” He added.

“You’ve been here long enough, 814. You know I have eyes and ears all over this place.”

Finn wasn’t sure how to answer. Sure, he knew that, but he never paid much attention to the meaning of it. So what if Mason had people that told him everything that went on inside the prison. Finn had never been afraid to speak his mind before, and he wouldn’t start now.

Mason raised an eyebrow. “But tell me, what did you do that you had to be so unceremoniously dragged off courtyard grounds?”

“I gave Joel what he deserved, sir.”

Mason laughed – a deep, abrasive sound – and stood, placing the palms of his hands on his desk and leaning over. “What he deserved? Do you know what you deserve, 814?”

“No, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me.”

The older man scowled and slapped him. “Talk back again, and you’ll get worse.”

Finn’s cheek stung, but it wasn’t like he hadn’t expected the blow. That was the weird thing about him. He knew the consequences as soon as the words formed on his tongue, but he was never able to stop himself. He just rode whatever it was out and waited for the repercussions, determined not to react.

Mason leaned closer. “You, and all of your little friends – you’re the lowest of the low. You deserve to be executed for all that you’ll do. And yet we graciously keep you here, with food to eat and a roof over your heads.”

For all that you’ll do. Finn found it curious that Mason had spoken in future tense, and he had a feeling that it hadn’t been a slip-up. But why, was the question…

“Are you listening?”

Finn refocused. “Yes.”

“Good. You cause more trouble than you’re worth, and I have half a mind to get rid of you and put an end to our headaches.”

If you had a full mind, you would’ve done that a long time ago. Finn just narrowly refrained from blurting out the words, but he still inwardly smiled at his own cleverness.

There you go! I hope you enjoyed the scene, and hopefully it inspired you to write something of your own.

How did you like the scene? Did it catch your interest? Do tell!

Understanding Why Your Characters Act The Way They Do

When you get angry, you’re likely to offer a snappy retort. When you’re in pain, maybe you cry. A friend shunning you can make you afraid to try new friendships. If you’re someone who likes to laugh, you’ll probably joke around with people that are close to you.

Virtually every single thing we do and say has a reason behind it. Whether it’s conscious or subconscious, our actions are influenced by what we experience around us.

If there are reasons behind how we act, why shouldn’t there be reasons for our character’s actions?

In order to appear as real people to the reader, characters must think and operate like real people. Characters should never do something just to do it. There must always be some sort of reason that acts as a driving force for what they do. Sometimes it’ll be something really little, other times it’ll be long and involved. If you don’t have any reason for making your character act a certain way, then it’s usually smart to throw that action into the trash.

For example, let’s say you just want some drama, and so you decide your protagonist gets mad and yells at another character. But why? Are they exhausted in the moment, and so are more prone to snap? Are they under a lot of stress and this was the last straw? Did the other character say something that offended the first or stirred up bad memories? Did the actions of the other character resemble something negative the protagonist has experienced? You have to understand what drove your MC to raise his or her voice, especially if it’s a character that is usually quiet and amiable.

Simply put, you shouldn’t make a character act a certain way just because you want them to.

Your character doesn’t like the woods. Is it because they hate to get dirty, or is it because they’re scared of wild animals? Your character seems afraid to get close to people. Are they that way due to an absent parent or have they been hurt by someone they cared about? Perhaps they’re terrified of the ocean or of swimming. Have they nearly drowned sometime in the past? Have they had a relative or friend that has died or been injured by an ocean creature such as a shark? Maybe they love helping people. Is it because they’ve needed help before? Perhaps their parents instilled a love of serving in them.

A main character that I write was abandoned as a child, and as a result, he’s grown into a very arrogant young man (to compensate for his lack of self-worth). He also tries to put himself in control over as many situations as he can, so he can be the one to leave, to decide that someone else isn’t worth it. Even his flirtatiousness comes from a deep-seated need and desire to feel wanted for once in his life.

I could have just decided that he was flirty and arrogant and that was it (and I probably had done that at the start), but do you see how when there are layers and psychological catalysts behind his behavior, he becomes three-dimensional?

I could go on forever about why understanding your character’s behavior is necessary, but right now you might be asking how you get started. Here are some questions you can ask yourself while trying to determine the reasons behind your character’s actions.

  • Are they acting out of character right now? If so, what would drive them to act so different? (Be careful, though. When a character acts out of line, it’s more often than not a bad thing.)
  • What is the mental effect this scene is having on my character? Is it positive, negative?
  • If I were acting like this, it’d probably be because…
  • If I were in this situation, I would do/feel… (Remember, your character won’t always do what you would do, but thinking about the reasons for your behavior can be a good start to contemplating theirs)
  • What past experiences could possibly influence my character’s feelings/decisions in this situation? Why?
  • Does this scene bring up any memories for my character? Are they bad or good?

Today, take some time to understand why your characters are acting the way they do – and give them viable reasons for responding in their unique ways.

Now it’s your turn! What steps do you take to understand your characters’ actions? Have you ever had to alter a scene to properly be a catalyst for what you wanted a character to do? Any other thoughts? Do tell!

NaNoWriMonday: Finding Peace In Unaccomplished Goals

My word count: 3,723

That’s right. My word count has not changed at all since last week’s NaNoWriMonday. To be painfully, brutally honest, I’m not going to make it to my word goal by the end of November. From the first of November to today, I should have a cumulative 16,000 words, just a tad over halfway to my goal.

Instead, I have approximately the amount of words I should have had on my third or fourth day of writing.

And I’m okay with this.

Why? Because I tried. I was always too afraid to attempt NaNo before, too afraid of failure. Now, in the face of my own impending unaccomplishment, I realize that this is a chance to learn. I didn’t buckle down and force myself to write and reach my goal every single day. To be honest, most days I haven’t even approached the computer with the intention of writing anything relating to “Prisoner”. I’ve let myself get distracted and disinterested.

However, that doesn’t make me a bad writer. I know that this single event does not determine my successfulness in the future. I can still accomplish writing, perhaps even daily writing and word goals, if I just learn to discipline and push myself further.

There’s this quote from Thomas Edison, one you may have heard before:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

That was after he had tried for so hard and so long to create a concentrated light source powered by electricity with no results. And guess what he’s primarily known for now? Achieving that dream by creating the lightbulb. After 10,000 tries that everyone around him labeled “failures”, he never lost his positive perspective, and it paid off in the end.

I sure hope it doesn’t take 10,000 tries for me to finish a rough draft, but I’m adamant that I have not failed; I’ve simply found an approach that doesn’t work for me.

I’m definitely going to do NaNo again next year, because NaNo isn’t the problem – it’s the approach I took to it. I was a little too lax on my writing schedule, and my novel suffered because of that. I’m going to work on becoming more disciplined and intentional in my writing efforts, and perhaps I can find a way of doing so that will work for me.

That said, I am not by any means quitting NaNo this year. I repeat, I am not quitting NaNo or ceasing my work on “Prisoner”. I have come to terms with the face that I probably won’t reach my word goal unless I complete some crazy-long writing sessions, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t see how much I can write by the end of November! I’m sticking this thing out ’til the end, just like I had intended.

We have two more Mondays left in November, and those will continue to be NaNoWriMondays. 🙂 This isn’t a resignation letter by any means, just sort of an update.

I hope you can learn from this experience as I have, because if you don’t meet a goal, a personal deadline, etc., you are not a failure! You simply need to approach it in another way. Find peace despite not accomplishing and/or completing your writing. It’s not the end of the world and it’s not a failure, and it’s certainly not cause to give up.

Right now, I haven’t failed.

I’ve just found one way that won’t work.

It’s your turn! How do you discipline yourself into writing regularly? Have you ever not reached a personal goal or deadline, and what did you learn from it? How hard was it to come to terms with the fact that you wouldn’t make your goal without seeing it as a failure? Got anything else to add? I want to hear from you! 

NaNoWriMonday: Getting To Know My Characters

This is a NaNoWriMonday in name only, because, if you haven’t noticed, it’s not Monday. I kind of forgot that yesterday was Monday, so….NaNoWriTuesday!! Yay!!

My word count: 3,723

You should know that I’ve stepped into NaNo with the barest sliver of an idea. I’m serious. All I knew was that Finn is the main character, Ash and Savannah are his friends, they’ve been raised in a prison, and that one vague idea I had earlier on about why they’re there. That’s it.

Plunging into a novel without knowing virtually anything about it has been interesting. I mean, I like knowing things. Character development is one of the most important parts of writing to me, so working with characters that I don’t really know is challenging. It’s like a big experiment, trying different actions and dialogue with them to figure out how they act and respond to stimuli in their environment.

I still know pretty much nothing about my idea and where it’ll take me, but I’m happy to say that my characters are developing right before my very eyes (albeit a little slower than I’d like).

My main character, Finn, punches a guy earlier on in the story. Originally, I had figured that it would be because the guy had been picking on a little kid or on a girl. But, as I was writing the scene, it suddenly hit me: Finn is not the “righteous anger” kind of guy. Sure, he gets mad at certain injustices, but I realized in that moment that I wanted people to read this scene and not totally be on Finn’s side because the other guy is being horrible. I didn’t want anyone reading it and going, “well, that was the right thing to do because that guy had it coming”. People, if they like Finn, will probably still be on his side, but the scene isn’t as black-and-white anymore. There’s no “he’s punching the kid to do the right thing and save the little guy” feel anymore, and I’m totally okay with that.

Because Finn has a temper.

Something so extremely simple that had evaded my view before, but there it was, staring me in the face. I felt like it was something I should have known all along, because it just felt – right. I knew all so suddenly that Finn has a bad temper that will flare up at the most inopportune moments. When it does, he gets himself into trouble and occasionally punches people. You know, the usual.

Also, he’s a really sore winner, which kind of goes hand-in-hand with the temper thing.

There you go – in just a short scene, Finn started fleshing out and becoming more realistic. I was ecstatic that I discovered this about him, and I can’t wait to find out more about him and the other characters as I go along.

Moral of the story: Listen to your characters and go with your instinct. Also, don’t punch people.

If you’re doing NaNo, how is it going? Are you starting from scratch? If so, what have you learned about your characters so far? Have you ever had one of these “lightbulb” moments? I wanna know! 

A Public Apology

Let me just tell you that I am so, so sorry for my sporadic posting lately. I’ve been pretty busy, and have found that partaking in NaNoWriMo may not be as glorious as I had imagined (let’s just say that I have less than half of the word count I should currently have). However, I am going to try to push through to the end, and if it means that I only get like, 3,000 words written this month, at least that’s 3,000 words that I probably wouldn’t have been able to write any other time.

I figured that it was time for me to apologize about leaving you, my faithful subscribers, with virtually no new posts. You are few, but you have chosen to spend your valuable time reading each of my new posts, and that’s actually a really cool thing.

I know Sundays are not normally days that I post anything at all, but I thought it would be better to post my apology out of line instead of posting on a regularly scheduled day and yet again cheating you out of a new blog post (see how thoughtful I am?). I will try my best to bring you new, creative blog posts more regularly.

But you know what, I’m an extremely random person, and I think that I’d really like to start posting some kind of random blog posts about stuff other than writing. Of course, writing would still be my main focus, but I have some really weird observations that I’d love to share with you guys sometimes.

So, what do you think? Would some random blog posts turn you away from Bookends, or would you really enjoy them? Do tell!

NaNoWriMonday: Getting Started

Hey! Sorry for the long absence, but life’s been pretty busy lately. But never mind that: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) started yesterday! If you were here when I decided to do NaNo, you might remember that I’m writing a dystopian novel in 30 days. I’m aiming to get 30,000 words by the end of the month, which comes out to writing 1,000 words per day.

Every Monday in November, I’ll be hosting NaNoWriMondays (get it? NaNoWriMo? Mo? Mondays?). That means that every Monday, I’ll give you my current word count, and I’ll talk about how my story is progressing and what I’m learning about writing so much in such a short amount of time.

Today, you get to witness the first ever NaNoWriMonday (lucky you).

My word count: 1,000

I won’t have time today to write another 1,000 words to bump this up to 2,000 , but I’ll definitely try to get at least 1,500 words written on Tuesday and Wednesday to make up for it.

What have I learned so far? Well, it’s only the second day of NaNo, so not a lot has happened yet. However, it felt good to accomplish that much writing in a day (even if I did get kinda lost near the end). I’m excited to start Finn’s story, and to discover his voice and speaking style. Ash already has my heart, the little cutie.

Basically. this is gonna be a difficult journey, but I’m ready for whatever’s ahead.

Are you doing NaNo? How is it going so far? What’s your word goal? What is your story idea? Do tell!