I completed NaNoWriMo on 15th November 2019, which is the fastest I have ever managed to write the 50,000 words required. This left me with several options, one of which was to continue with this story, Seasons of an Affair and increase the word count to 70,000 plus to create a draft manuscript for future editing and revision.
However, a book I placed on order some time ago became available. This particular book is the story of a man, who escaped society and lived alone for 27 years. Known as the North Pond Hermit, Chris Knight existed in a make shift camp with no human contact for all that time. I initially read the newspaper reports when he was captured and it sparked an idea for a novel, along with two other strange news stories, this became my 2014 NaNo novel – The Giving Thief. After reading the book of his life (twice) I was plunged back into that story. Do I go back to it and complete it?
Then another on order book became available giving me my third option. This is a research book on steampunk, which is the genre of one of my 2018 NaNo projects. I used that NaNo challenge to write the sequel to The Rython Kingdom and launched Rython Legacy in 2019. However, the other ‘novella’ project for that year quickly expanded into a full length novel, The Commodore’s Gift, from a short story I’d written some time before. So I am tempted to revive this story line as well.
So which will I chose?
As a writer we all have multiple story ideas racing around our heads all the time. It is difficult to decide which story to choose when they all clamor for attention.
Without characters our stories would have no real impact on our readers. We write to engage and intrigue them and hopefully make our protagonist the character our reader cares about. If your experience is anything like mine, there is usually one, or possibly two characters, that make their presence known in no uncertain terms. They want the starring role in our narrative. These characters are usually more defined in our minds and are ‘easier’ to relate to, whether because of a personality trait or that they are more fun to write. When creating the protagonist and antagonist in our stories, we give each opposing views and/or values. This is the basis of the conflict that carries our readers along their journey. Each character, whether major or minor, needs to have flaws and redeeming features, motivations, expectations, loyalties and deterrents.
This leaves us with the problem of developing our supporting characters with as much attention to detail as the main antagonist and protagonist. When creating characters we must remember to ensure that each character acts and responds true to their given personality. Character profiles are a good way of ‘getting to know’ our characters, this can be achieve mainly by utilizing character’s names, personality traits, appearance and their motivations. A name is a vital part of creating a mental image of our character for readers. The right name can give them a quick visualization of our character’s age, ethnicity, gender, and even location, and if we are writing a period piece, even the era. For example if I say the girl was called Britney, you would probably picture a young girl because of the association with Britney Spears. However, if a female character were called Edith or Edna, you would imagine someone born several decades ago. So you see a name is not just a name.
A burly man would be called something like Butch but not Shirley, unless of course you are going to tell the story of his struggle throughout childhood to overcome the name. There are plenty of web sites available, which list the most common names for each decade and locations around the world. These are great resources for writers, who require particular names for period stories or want to stay true to a certain decade.
The use of a nickname will also give your character an identity, be it an unkind one given by a bully or one of respect or fear for the bully. You would expect Big Al to be just that, a large person, however, Little Mikey would be the exact opposite. Nicknames, or sobriquet’s can work very well in defining an ethnicity as well but care must be taken not to offend a person of color. Obviously there are certain words that were in common usage decades ago that are not politically correct now, so we need to be diligent in their use.
We should also consider giving our characters a conscience. Will the hero question his actions if they are extreme to his morals? Does the villain have a deep-seated angst? What motivates them? Some flawed characters can be difficult to write on occasion as they are far removed from our own personality (well I certainly hope so!) but with care we can accomplish a believable character.
How do you set about building a character?
Do you write out a full description of your characters?
Have you based a character on someone you know, a famous personality or mixed up several people’s traits to make a new one?
Firstly, apologies for not getting a post up sooner – as you can imagine with full time work and writing my NaNo novel it’s been a bit hectic along with the usual life stuff.
Having said that I am, as of Thursday 14th November only a couple thousand off my target of 50,000 words so a celebration is imminent. I was late to NaNo this year as I only just completed publishing the sequel to The Rython Kingdom. After numerous reader requests for a sequel I used last year’s NaNo to write one and as we all know that is only the start of the journey to getting a book published. Rython Legacy has been favorably received – whew!
I did dither about actually participating in NaNo this year, I have two manuscripts lying in wait from other year’s and couldn’t decide whether to tackle them or create a whole new story. Then there was the problem of what story to write. As with most writers there is a lot to choose from – part stories, pages of story ideas and everything left on the back burner. As it happened a new story formed out of no where and that’s what I have been busily typing. It is a love story of sorts set in a university. This gave me my first problem I have never been to university so research has been a huge part of this challenge. However, my daughter and future daughter-in-law have been so I have utilized their experiences into the narrative.
Of course any NaNo novel is the first draft and the manuscript will go through many changes, revisions and editing before it is ready for publication. For now I am fully immersed in my characters, their setting and where the story is going.
Good luck to my fellow NaNoWriMo writers – word power is our thing.
Much like the story beginning, I was intrigued with one dirt road leading off a highway I travelled often and wondered what was over the hill. I still don’t know what is really there.
How did you come up with the title?
I think the title, DIRT ROAD, was self explanatory
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I hope people will see through more than the romance part, that, when needed, people rise to the occasion, such as the son that did not seem to have any gumption finally took over or the mother when away from the family was totally different.
How much of the book is realistic?
I think like all novels, bits and pieces are realistic. The dirt road in question is in Southern Alberta but the farm over the hill is in Central Alberta and the coffee shop is in Northern Montana but in the story they are all within miles of each other.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
No, the actual story is a figment of my imagination, but I feel the characteristics of the individuals are composites of various people I know.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
I am on Facebook only.
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
My next novel or any forthcoming work are all stand alone works. I have two completed novels and working on another. Time will tell if I publish them.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
I like Gary. He is patterned after my grandson with a little embellishment.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
I like to say I write about life, but romance seems to sneak in as well.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
Strictly seat of the pants. I love my writing club the nights they give three or four prompts and give us an hour to come up with a short story about one of them.
What is your best marketing tip?
Find someone you can trust to lead you along the way.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
Social Media is a great help. I post my short stories on there and judge form the feedback.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
It takes me into a different world, not necessarily better but different.
What age did you start writing stories/poems?
I think before I was a teenager I would ride my bicycle up on a hill overlooking the entry to my city and study the vehicles and write stories about what I thought they were doing in the city or where they were going when leaving.
Has your genre changed or stayed the same?
I think it has remained the same.
What genre are you currently reading?
That is one of my hindrances as a writer, I read very little.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both?
When I do read it is for pleasure.
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?
I would have to say the members of my writing club give me the boost I need.
Where is your favorite writing space?
Tim Hortons. As I dabble on the laptop I watch the people around me and incorporate characteristics I see.
Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?
I belong to River Bottom Writing Club in Lethbridge
If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why?
Sorry, no favorite.
If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?
Right where I live. My grandchildren are only a few miles away but also the people of Lethbridge are so diverse it gives me lots of content for my stories.
Do you see writing as a career?
Well, at 70 years old I think my career stage is over. However, I did work for several years as a newspaper journalist but found that type of writing not to my liking.
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?
Tim Horton coffee and a Boston Cream donut. At home it is Coke and Werthers Candies.
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?
I hate deadlines. I just like to see a finished copy, if there is any such thing as a finished copy.
Bryan L. Beerling lives in Lethbridge, AB with his wife. He is a member of the local writer’s group, River Bottom Writers. Dirt Road is his first full-length novel.
Several people enjoyed the button prompt, so today’s question is:
What story comes to mind with this image? Use 69 words or less.
Here is my interpretation:
The streets lay deserted and dirty. The last flickering of an advert splashed against the buildings husk. Nature will encroach to claim back what is rightfully hers, once again. The structures will house animals and insects and plants will flourish as the cement and steel crumble and rust.