Characters as Friends

Way back in November 2015 (yes, this post has been sitting in my drafts folder that long), I posted something in the NaNoWriMo forums about how you can get so close to your characters that it’s almost like having fictional friends.

I know it sounds lame/nerdy/dorky or whatever, but my characters are my friends. Not in the sense that you can talk to them and they talk back, but in the sense that they are parts of you and can help you see different aspects of yourself. Real flesh-and-blood friends help you do this, too, and hopefully the relationship is mutualistic enough that you do this for each other.

Friendship is also about comfort and being able to be your true self around others. You can be yourself around your characters, and you feel comfortable enough hanging out with them even when they sometimes don’t want to go along with your nefarious fictional plots.

Do you see your characters as friends?

Excerpt from XIII: Strophe

Sometimes it’s fun to open the proverbial drawer and take a look at old writing, even when you don’t think you’ll ever revisit it again. About two years ago, I got the crazy idea that I might revise XIII, my old series and one of my favorite things I’ve written. I’m still bothered by the fact that XIII remains completely finished but mostly unedited; I suppose I have a hard time letting go, which is why I return to it at times. My mind wants to “complete the circuit.” Upon looking through the most recent revisions, I found that my writing is passable but still needs work. There’s something about it that’s “missing,” but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.

This excerpt is from the September 2015 revision of Chapter 11 of the first book in the series, STROPHE,* which introduces the main characters who remain in play for most of the series and hints at the upcoming supernatural conflict (related to demigods and Greek mythology).

Low, murmuring voices broke into her thoughts. Gavin was speaking to his mother, but Naomi couldn’t hear a word they were saying, and from where she stood on the stairs, she could see only the gray streaks in Gavin’s mother’s hair as the light from the television flickered over them.

“Naomi,” Gavin said, and she followed his voice until she joined him on the couch opposite the plush recliner in which his mother rested.

Ms. Dufford was a squat mushroom of a woman; she had a smooth, youngish face that betrayed little emotion, and as Naomi moved closer and stretched out her hand for her to shake, she caught the scent of mold on the air, as though the woman were releasing spores. “Hi,” Naomi said. She put on her best school spirit smile and waited for Ms. Dufford to take her hand.

She did not. “I heard my stepdaughter admiring your outfit,” she said.

Naomi dropped her hand and slipped it into her other, which she hid behind her back. “She said she liked it,” she said.

As Sylvia had done, Ms. Dufford glanced at Naomi, who shivered involuntarily, like the woman’s gaze itself emitted dust that tickled her skin.

“Naomi and I are going back up to my room,” Gavin said. He took Naomi’s hand and threaded his fingers in hers. His hand felt clammy, like he was feverish. The entire house seemed to have taken on a dismal cast that not even the bright, smiley commercials on the television could lift.

“You do that. I hope you will remember what I told you,” Ms. Dufford said.

Feedback is welcome.

*strophe [n]: (1) the movement of the classical Greek chorus while turning from one side to the other of the orchestra; (2) the part of a Greek choral ode sung during the strophe of the dance.

Starting Off

I did end up hand-writing my NaNoWriMo novel in a notebook—a 100-page green spiral notebook that was on the clearance rack at OfficeMax (and I only bought it because I irrationally felt sorry for it; OfficeMax always has that creepy about-to-go-out-of-business vibe).

Based on the size of my handwriting, I can reach the 1,667-word daily limit in about six pages (three pages front and back). It’s a long, hard slog that would definitely be made easier if I were typing, but the main only reason I’m hand-writing is so I won’t have to drag a flash drive and laptop everywhere and worry that they are either going to get lost or lose charge at a crucial moment, respectively.

As for the story, I’m not sure how it’s going yet. My main character Eliza is at her high school graduation party, and someone may have spiked her drink, because everything she’s experiencing has taken on the color of a bad dream. Basically, it’s hallucinatory with a ton of run-on sentences and a lot of fun.

How’s your NaNo starting off?