D’OH! I seem to have completely forgotten to write and schedule a post for today. It’s been such a weird week that it completely slipped my mind. And being that it’s (hopefully) going to be a quiet day here at the Day Job, hopefully I can take care of other things that slipped my mind and/or didn’t have time for.
Such as making some headway on the Apartment Complex story outline. I finished the initial revision run-through for Meet the Lidwells just the other day, and I’m letting it simmer for a few days before I go through it one more time…so this is the perfect time to kickstart that next project. [I do need to futz with the MtL cover some more, but I think I’ll do that on the weekend when I have more time and space to breathe. I know what I want, I’m just having a hell of a time trying not to make it look like it’s a craptacular botch job finished in five minutes on Photoshop.]
I’m hoping things quiet down on the Day Job from here on in so I can a) relax a bit, and b) sneak in some writing work if needed. Things usually do start winding down post-Thanksgiving (with one last short burst in late December), so this is when I get to unwind and not have to stress out about all that much. And I am so looking forward to that!
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my recent new projects, and how much lighter and more positive they are in terms of mood and setting. Not filled with Shiny Happy People, mind you, but neither have I filled them with Miserable Wretches. I’m quite sure this is a personal emotional and mental reaction to things going on In Real Life, but I’m fascinated by this decision nonetheless.
The Infamous War Novel was written a) when I was a moody-ass teenager and b) during the last few years of the Cold War in the 80s, so you can well imagine how much of a funfest that book would have been. Several of my trunked stories from that era and up to the late 90s were written during my high school, college and post-college years when was trying to figure out who the hell I was and what I wanted to do with my life. So a lot of Gen-X whinging going on there.
It wasn’t until the project that became the Bridgetown Trilogy that I forced myself out of that rut and made it a point not to write purely as a reaction to Real Life Stuff.
In a way, though, I haven’t really shaken that off, not completely. I know I’m not the only writer who’s done this. Put it this way: I’m nerely making it a point not to write something pessimistic or grimdark, because that’s not where I want to be right now. I want to write stories that are more positive in some way, to balance that out. Granted, I’m certainly not writing Teletubbies-level harmlessness in reactive response, either.
Meet the Lidwells was an exercise in writing something purely for the fun of it, and for someone to read for the same reason, and I think I’ve pulled it off. There are serious moments in that story, but they’re not High Drama. It’s about the evolution of a band, as well as a family, as they grow from teens to adults.
The next project — the Apartment Complex story — is along the same lines. There’s a reason I’ve been describing it as my Studio Ghibli story; the style is not just about the physical action, but also about the evolution of lives.
It’s kind of hard to describe, because it’s not exactly an American style of storytelling; it’s more inspired by Asian fiction than American. There’s a kind of poetry to this style, where your focus on the physical movement of people is just as important as the movement their internal changes — spiritual, mental and emotional. The pace of the story slows down a little, causing you to pay more attention to the details.
Will I pull this style off? That’s a good question. I’ve read so many books of this style over the last ten or so years that I think I have an understanding of how it works. I hope I pull it off, and I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Now that Meet the Lidwells is in post-production revision status, I can now finally move parts of the New Project to the front burner. Yay! I’m really looking forward to writing this one.
Which of course means switching up the tunage I’d be listening to during my writing sessions. Being the music nerd that I am, I’d been thinking about this for the last few months. What would fit the mood of this next story? It’s going to be a much lighter story, at least in terms of mood — I’ve been describing this as my Studio Ghibli-inspired project — so I don’t think the epic epicness of alt-metal or prog rock that were my stables during the trilogy would fit all that well.
No, I think this one’s going to go all the way and attract a lot of dreampop and light electronica like M83, BT, Lamb, and my latest find, The Sound of Arrows. That sort of thing. And maybe some alt-folk? We shall see. I’m keeping my eyes and ears open.
When I start a new story, I don’t really focus too much on character names right away. I’ll give them a placeholder name that I think fits at least for now. If it sticks, it sticks. If it needs changing, well… that’s what Find/Replace is for in MS Word!
I rarely assign a name based on what the name means. Instead, I go with how their name — and sometimes its spelling — resonates with the character that I’m creating. I’ll at least ensure the name fits the character’s culture, but that’s about as far as I’ll take it. The character’s name, in my opinion, should fit their family’s dynamic.
For instance, Caren Johnson from my trilogy: she has a very unexciting, stereotypical last name, as she’s supposed to come from a very blue-collar family that’s been in the police force for ages. And her first name is deliberately spelled with a C and not a K, even though her Mendaihu name starts with a K, to hint that there’s a bit of a rebel in her. She’s someone who doesn’t want to stick out, but she doesn’t exactly want to fit in, either.
Now, did I really think that at the time of creation? To be honest, no. Her name just sort of popped up when I started the book and it sounded right to me. It wasn’t until a few chapters in that I realized that the personality I imagined from the name could be imprinted on the character.
Yeah, I do tend to do a lot of things bassackwards, but hey, if it works…!
For the new project, have the names of about a dozen or so characters. All but one was created in the same way: just a name out of thin air that sounded right to me. I still do this for the same reason, actually. I usually have a basic idea of who the character is and what they’re about, so the name becomes a memetic or an anchor for the idea.
Sometimes the original name I came up with no longer fits and I have to change it. I changed five or six names in the trilogy over the course of writing it, one major change taking place well into the revision period. And that’s okay too. Sometimes the name I come up with is just a placeholder, waiting for me to figure the character out a little more before I can assign a much better fit. I’ve already decided to change the name of one of the main characters in my next project, because I’ve finally figured out his own family background. Thankfully, the only places I’ll need to change this is in my notes, as I haven’t started the first draft yet.
This process of naming characters might not be for everyone, but it seems to work well for me. I like the idea of a character’s name not always being a perfect fit; it reveals part of their personal background and fleshes it out. That background may have nothing to do with the story itself, but it certainly could help reveal why they might act as they do.