about writing and life and God

Danger! Icebergs to starboard

on November 1, 2012

I reckon books are like icebergs. The largest part is out of sight.

Every time I get ready to launch back into writing the WiP, I experience a nagging internally about one after another of my characters: “Do you really understand him/her? Do you really know why they do what they do?”

As I may have mentioned before, I’ve taken over the dining table for the novel. It is strewn with papers, books, timelines, postcards from my trip north etc. but there is just enough room left clear for me to have my breakfast. (Remind me to explain the pig some time.)

As a result, each breakfast time, I am faced by the WiP – and the nagging questions as my Internal Editor deals with each of my characters in turn.

Today it was David Ross, my heroine’s father. I had to admit that I’d rather skimmed over him. After all, he’s not that important, is he?

Internal Editor shakes her head and tut-tuts at me. “If you’re going to write about them, they are all important.”

So after breakfast, it’s back to the table and time to ponder. What I’m discovering is that to really understand a character, you often need to go back a generation. So I tracked back to David’s mother, the lovely light-hearted Lizzie. Marrying for love at 16, Lizzie is widowed when her man is lost at sea, leaving her with three small children.

As I think about Lizzie, it becomes obvious that she simply wouldn’t stay home with her children as a loyal little 20-year-old widow. No, she would remarry and do it quite quickly. And as I followed that thought through, I suddenly saw the logical reasons for the behaviour of her son and her grandson whom she has never met.

But will. And I can’t wait to write it!

A friend was asking about the writing process. It’s hard to explain it without sounding ….slightly weird? Because I don’t feel I’m making things up. I feel I’m finding them out, and then writing them down.

To get characters right so that what they do and say rings true demands enough finding-out time, excavating the three-quarters which may well remain invisible in the final book, but underpins it as essentially as the hidden three-quarters of an iceberg.

The danger is that, smitten by the idea of the story, we may launch ourselves into writing about people we don’t really know. Just as too often we may fall in love with people we don’t really know!

At least with writing – and modern technology – it’s easy to go back and rewrite!


5 responses to “Danger! Icebergs to starboard

  1. So glad to e-meet you, Dorothy. Are you participating in NaNoWriMo, or just writing a new novel?

  2. Hi Vonilda, I’d love to try NaNoWriMo but I’m 36,000 words in to the new novel and I must must finish it first. Maybe next year!

  3. Pat says:

    Hi – and you changed your theme, I notice.

    • Yep. I did it age ways ago. The theme comes in a version for each season of the year so I thought it would be fun to be season-appropriate!

      • Pat says:

        Funny, I didn’t notice the change until today. Not doing NaNo, Decided I have too much else going on, so my little plot ideas will have to wait and take their turn or fizzle out as the case may be. Plus I have hurt my back so long spells at the computer are off.

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