Helga’s Post #4 — If you have followed this blog for the last couple of weeks, you know things are a bit rocky on the writing front. Progress to date has been at snail’s pace (and that’s putting it mildly). Perhaps not at the same level; we heard from Karalee she’s galloping ahead of the pack with her characters (way to go baby!) Sure, our road to Nirvana (another word for getting published), is paved with good intentions, but no matter how we twist and turn, priorities cannot be ignored. Consider the case of Joe: he is facing a brutally short deadline to submit a manuscript that still needs editing. He has to put the 5Writers project on the back burner so that Echo of The Shroudmaiden will finally get the respect she so justly deserves. That’s a no-brainer.
But what about the rest of us? By now we should have somewhere between (gulp) 75 to 100 pages written (see Silk’s haunting Arithmetic post) in order to have a finished manuscript in four months. What is wrong with us! (speaking for myself, getting sidetracked to learn my new writing software StoryMill, for example. Thanks again Paula, for taking time to show me the ropes).
I know we all can see the larger picture. We know what our novels are about and have the plot figured out. More or less anyways. I suspect the devil is in the details.
‘It is not the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.’ (Thank you, Robert W. Service for this morsel of wisdom)
For me, for this project, I know the story I want to tell. The story I am itching to tell. Just like telling bedtime stories to my kids long ago (though I hasten to add that my novel would not fit the mold of a bedtime story). It’s the small details that keep me back: will my readers relate to my characters; do my settings sound realistic and have enough color; does my dialogue ring true?
Gotta shake out that grain of sand in my shoe. Gotta keep looking at the mountain.
My main character, my protagonist, as I alluded in my last post, is unusual. She is smart. She is funny. People like her. I hope my readers will root for her as she tackles some formidable obstacles. Nothing unusual yet. But here’s the rub: When she deals with people who have double-crossed her she is unforgiving. Extremely so. And creative in the way she tilts the scale. Protagonist, you’ll wonder? You wished. Now she’s no Annie Wilkes from Misery, but the name does come to mind. (Don’t tempt me, Annie!)
And the villain? He’s done my heroine wrong, no doubt about it. But now the tables may have turned. He’s become the victim. Or has he? The lines become blurred. Villain in one chapter, victim in the next. My heroine seems to go through a metamorphosis. The hunted becomes the huntress. Readers start to identify with and root for my villain. But, as so many inside book flaps promise, or warn, nothing is what it seems.
You may wonder if I’m writing a horror story. I’m not. Not in the strictest sense. My subject deals with a real-life, contemporary phenomenon that I am fictionalizing with invented characters. In fact it defies any horror story.
All to say, when agents or publishers at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference just two weeks away, will ask the inevitable, “can you tell me something about your protagonist, and also about your antagonist?” I may look them in the eye with a villainous glint, and say, “It’s not that simple.”
Because, truth be told, I don’t know myself. Not yet. Not entirely. Because no matter how diligently I have worked on my outline, in the end my characters will do what they want, without my bidding. And that’s something I look forward to: meeting the angels and demons (love your title, Dan Brown), that will populate my novel.