As per my “Writer’s Claws,” in the year 2012, I am required to write 3 novels/screenplays if I am to succeed. A novel has to be over 50k words and a screenplay has to be 100+ pages. It’s nearly the end of March, and clearly I have been procrastinating.
That’s not to say I haven’t written anything in the past three months. I’ve written two novellas (28k and 34k words each) and thirteen short stories at 5k words each for an employer (that’s 65k words in a month and a half). To say I’m prolific is an understatement, but all that prolificity (that’s not word, is it?) doesn’t quite extend to things that would satisfy the Claws.
So today, after I got home from work where it took over an hour to wash one Bernese Mountain Dog, I sat down with the intention of starting one of these novels that I have to write.
Way back in 2009, before I had this blog, I was living in China and NaNoWriMo came around. I had a lot of free time that year and decided to see if I could win the whole thing in five days. I won NaNo 2009 on November 5th that year. I finished the novel on the 6th. Later that year, in March which is National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo), my friend and I decided to do HuPoEdMo (Hubei Province Editing Month – where we lived in China). My intention was to edit this six-day novel into something readable.
Clearly, that didn’t happen.
Three years later, I’m about to take this novel and turn it into Young Adult fiction instead. I’m de-aging my characters ten years, changing the setting slightly, and plan on reworking almost the entire plot. And here comes the problem.
I can’t think of a plot.
Now, admittedly, I read a lot of Young Adult fiction (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Inheritance Cycle, etc) and you’d think I could come up with a plot somewhere along those veins, especially since the story is also a mix of supernatural-type stuff. There’s a … fantasy element? It’s got super powers. There.
I’ve been sitting here for the past four hours trying to figure out even the most basic plot. After the first two hours, I did finally settle on a bare-bones idea, but then comes how to work the characters into it. I’ve already spent 60k words with these characters, especially my main character, and I know how he’ll react to what my second MC is going to want to do in this new plot. He’s not going to like it. So I have to figure out a way that he’ll have no choice but to cooperate.
There are a lot of authors out there who say that their characters speak to them while writing, but I don’t really hold to that idea. My characters are mine and I can do what I want with them. Although. My characters don’t speak to me, but what does happen is my brain says, “so-and-so wouldn’t do that. You know that. Stop that right now.” I can’t force my characters to act out of character which means either I need to adjust their character in the beginning to allow them to do some things or I have to deal with the fact that they won’t do something and find a way around it.
So I’ve got my bare-bones plot and now it’s just a matter of figuring out how to manipulate my characters into doing something they might not normally. My MC won’t just run off with a girl he barely knows, not unless there’s a damn good reason to, so I’ve got to give him one, or the girl does. Which leads me to the girl. Is she as nice as she was in the first draft? Does she have the same morals? What’s in it for her? Maybe she’s a bit more manipulative than we’ve been led to believe.
I’m a character writer, I fully admit it. I love my characters and plot always comes second. And that just won’t do in a YA novel. So I sit here and think of all the YA novels I’ve read and think about their plots (for some reason I always come back to The Hunger Games and Twilight, though I’ve never read Twilight and would hate to use that as a jumping off point). And here I am, rambling to a blog instead of figuring out just what leverage the girls sees in the guy.
If you’re wondering, and if you’ve made it this far, my plot is:
boy meets girl. girl is on a quest to destroy the man who destroyed her family. boy and girl go on quest. bad things happen. ROCK FALLS EVERYONE DIES.
Okay, that last part is negotiable, but there we are.