My main character is starting to piss me off. She’s been fickle lately–changing her mind about her story, blowing this way and that. I’m having trouble with my synopsis because she won’t stay on point. Sometimes she speaks so clearly to me, I’m surprised she’s not corporeal. But just as often she’s a cipher.
It’s been especially difficult lately. I’m so close to having my novel ready to pitch, or at least I thought I was, but when I try to write the synopsis, the fuzzy bits get in the way. Each time I try to clarify, the story gets more and more muddled in my brain until I don’t recognize it anymore.
I asked a wonderful YA author once about the critical elements of a successful novel. Her advice? Shocking and deviant behavior and the occult. It can be about anything, she said, just make sure your character is a vampire. Oh wait, vampires are so yesterday. She said she was having a bad week.
Every class and coach and editor that I’ve worked with has ideas for what constitutes a good story, and I’ve responded by shifting directions ever so slightly, trying to make sure mine is marketable. It’s hard not to think about the desired end result — getting published. I write because I love to write, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have the endgame in mind. I feel like I’m chasing slips of paper blowing in the wind.
Anne Wotring, a wonderfully insightful personal coach who I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with, has a blog — Dare to Think Fresh Thoughts — featuring short webcasts that take the etch-a-sketch and shake it up. Two spoke to me today. One on silence and one on grounding.
I ran without music today and let the story wash over me. I didn’t consciously think about it, I just let it roll about my brain. I’m not going to say it fixed everything, but it did remind me that the story, when right, tells itself. What I need to do is ground myself in it–the characters and their world, and let it support me as I write. It is there to keep me from toppling when the wind blows, but I have to respect it, and stop trying to make it into something else.
Maybe it’s not that my character isn’t speaking. Maybe it’s that I need to be a better listener.
Check out Anne’s blog — You might find exactly the message you need, just like me.
Words by J. B. Everett
Photograph by Perosha © 2007 Creative Commons