Sunday, November 6, 2016

Inspiration Vs. Replication

It's NaNoWriMo, and that means that authors everywhere are flocking to their computers to. .. write blogs, to "research," to engage in social marketing. In other words, we are flocking to our computers to do anything other than write our wretched, soul-sucking novels. The novels that we would be overjoyed to write any other time but suddenly feel the weight, the pressure, of a deadline.

I am no exception.

But I figure in my attempt to escape my lagging word count, I can talk about some things that we, as writers, face.

When you're a writer, some people assume that everything in your books is about them. I've had more than one family member get angry with me about things that I have written. Sometimes they had been the inspiration. More often not. I realized long ago that I wouldn't convince them either way, so I smile in a way that is meant to be enigmatic but most likely just looks gassy. Ah well, you can't have everything. My point is, that while we aren't necessarily just waiting to paint you as a caricature in our next novel, we are always listening. We are making mental and sometimes physical notes. We are gaining inspiration however and whenever we can

And usually that's what it is. It is inspiration. We use it to further the plot, to add nuance to a character. We use it to create the feel that we want, to make YOU feel what we want you to. Sometimes, though, far more rarely, inspiration becomes replication. We forget, somehow, that what we are writing is fiction. We get too close. We are working through something or we really want you to feel how we felt in that moment.

I have been struggling with that, lately. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, writing the second book in my series, when another story started tugging like a fishhook in my brain. This story is that of the one and only lost girl to be in Neverland. This story incorporates Pan as he actually was. Sure, he was fun-loving. He was also manipulative, arrogant, and a murderer. Yes, you read that right. If the lost boys displeased him, he was not above "thinning them out." So, anyhow this lost girl somehow finds herself as the caretaker of a bunch of Pan's castaways. While Pan doesn't want the responsibility of taking care of these boys, he doesn't like that she is doing it and therein the conflict lies. It took me a solid month of writing this book to realize why it was bothering me, why it had to be written. Once I saw it (and recovered from the "duh" moment of why I didn't see this from the beginning) I knew why it was with me. From that moment, though, my inspiration keeps trying to edge over into replication. Every time that happens, I start to get lost, bogged down. That character, he needs to do a certain thing to advance the plot but he can't because my son wouldn't do that. That character must be defeated, but the scene is taking me a weeks to write because I keep getting really anxious whenever I write it. I can't hurt that character because he is based on my other son.

I know I'm not the only one who does this. I know of a writer who had based the main love interest in one of her novels on her boyfriend. When the relationship ended, she couldn't bring herself to finish the book for over a year. Another author started a book based on her five children. Then she had two more. She didn't know what to do, because adding more kids made the story unwieldy but she didn't want the younger two to feel left out.

I don't have an answer to this. I just know that we cannot fall into this trap. Our writing suffers, first and foremost because we get bogged down and it slows our writing. Our writing also suffers because we are too busy staying true to reality to stay true to the story. It makes for a worse story that takes too long to come out. But once it is in our mind, compartmentalizing becomes more difficult. So, tell me, what tricks do you use to separate the two?

And now, I feel like I've procrastinated long enough. I have three kids stuck on the top of a cliff. I'll look forward to reading your comments below.

1 comment:

  1. I've heard this from a lot of authors. The concept of basing a character off of a person you know, and then it becomes cemented, and it takes a while to realize that even though this personality may be based on someone in reality - that character has dealt with a much different world!