Hello April, it’s been a while.
Even slightly longer than I expected it to be when I wrote most of this. It was actually still march then and I could have finished it up quickly enough that I would have had to change the first sentence. But that didn’t happen.
I hadn’t forgotten about the blog or decided to quit writing. I’ve just felt busy (despite only working four short days a week). A little less busy the last few weeks, first due to Covid isolation when one of my brothers caught it, then I came down with a very mild case myself. Not enough to stop me getting some stuff done at home, but I still couldn’t go to a couple of dances last weekend. (I’m taking historical dance classes and a few people were putting events on)
I’ve actually started sewing on my Kyrin Altair costume. Mostly because I realized I could pair the shirt of the costume with a skirt to wear for dancing. That was enough to get me going and even missing the events hasn’t stopped the momentum.
I have been putting some pictures in my Instagram stories, but I’ll have a full update here and there when the shirt is finished. It shouldn’t be much longer, but I’ve already delayed the post enough and I’ll have less time now that I’m returning to work.
So for now, here’s my thoughts of two weeks ago on my tendency to overthink things and on creating characters.
My writing has been going slowly, as has everything else except perhaps my game leveling the other week. I’ve begun the story and a few other many times. I’ve found I have no plot. I’ve nearly lost interest entirely.
The trouble with beginnings is that they set things up and I haven’t been sure what I’ve wanted to set up. That doesn’t have to be a problem. some people start with a beginning and let it go where it will. That wasn’t working for me.
The biggest barrier is with not really knowing who Litlasha is. I had a few ideas of things I definitely want to be in the story. I had an idea of what kind of character Litlasha should be. I was wrong.
One big mistake to make with writing, one I would have said I knew about, is planning your character as a particular personality type. Personality typing can be useful once the character already has a definite form. Knowing basic personality things is important. You could look at that from something like the four humours system. Choleric, sanguine, melancholy, phlegmatic. Or maybe use simpler English words. Hot-tempered, quiet, can’t sit still, friendly.
The trouble is when the system or personality type starts to dictate your choices, or when the character is only a type and doesn’t actually have a personality. What you think the character is supposed to be can get in the way of what works for the story or what would be fun to write.
For Litla, I thought it would be fun to write a quick thinking, adaptive, sneaky character. A snake secondary in the SHC system that a friend got me into. That was well enough. It’s good to have a plan so that a character doesn’t end up as a copy of myself. It’s a little lacking though. I need to figure out how she talks, how she usually appears to other people around her, how her way of acting has worked out in the past.
The biggest problem I had with Litlasha has been motivation. I had decided that she’d be driven by her core sense of particular things being right (lion primary in SHC) and I was trying to set things up so that her sense of justice would send her in the direction I wanted. It never worked. the actions I wanted her to take never really made sense and it made her abrasive in the wrong ways to the wrong people. It didn’t fit at all with my desire to have a girl among strangers who felt lost.
Last week I think I figured it out. A sense of justice couldn’t be the primary driver, but plain and simple curiosity could. Curiosity would drive Litlasha to be independent in a way conviction couldn’t. a sense of justice was going to make her try to help her people and I’m not trying to write Robin Hood of some political schemer. Freedom didn’t work as Litlasha’s highest value. But someone who want to know, she’s perfect.
I’ve got other characters who need personalities, but they’re coming along well enough in the background. Some of them at least. The other thing my planning has been lacking is secondary or tertiary characters. I have some for one of my groups/locations, but there are other places to fill out. I can make up characters on the fly, but it doesn’t work well when I need group dynamics. I need some preplanning. Names and how people are connected. Some basic things about the kind of people they are and I’ll figure the rest out as I go.
I’ve got the people now to fill up the blank white room, but there’s not much scenery. If I don’t know what a place looks like, I’m not going to do very good descriptions. I was reading The Two Towers and there’s a point with incredible description of herbs and plants and I couldn’t write that even if I walked outside and described what I saw. I don’t know the names of things. I certainly don’t know what plants they have in this made up world. I think I really need to settle on a climate and biomes. Climate is very useful on not making generic fantasy choices. I was trying to get a feel for houses and realized that is very climate dependent.
The climate doesn’t really matter a lot because the story is going to leave this location soon enough. It’s a matter of what I want and what contrasts I might want to make.
Towards the end of that I drifted into by stream of consciousness planning a little, but I don’t mind sharing it. It’s what my writing is made of these days. Or half of what my writing is made of. I’ve been slowly getting along with my fiction prose as well.
I’ve also had a bunch of other revelations and possibly found the antagonist and plot that was missing. Most of that in the last few days. I’ve been listening to panels and workshops from Quarancon 2022 as I sew and it’s been good for my writing. I’m pretty sure it’s changed from half of what I said above.
Sometimes conferences can make me even more prone to overthinking, but these were good. Partly because it wasn’t by experts maybe. Quarancon people seem to be very down to earth. It didn’t feel like experts telling me how to do it, but just people saying stuff that made my mind wander in the right direction. Anyway, if you write, do check out their stuff on Youtube.
I’m excited about the ideas and I promise I’ll have something coming soon. A sewing update, maybe some world building, possibly random stuff, definitely book releases in two weeks.