It’s October and outside the leaves are turning after our premature bought of freezing weather. Inside, I’ve become more serious about planning for my sixth NaNoWriMo. NaNo has become more about production, learning, and camaraderie than winning at this point. My concern is for finishing, not my numbers.
When I’m planning it seems like there’s always something that triggers a reminder from when I started. This year was no different. Sure enough, while sitting in a waiting room for my annual checkup with my pulmonologist it happened.
I was typing (if you can call it that) on my phone. Ideas concerning my antagonist had struck me and I was racing to record them before I was called back (I’m doing great, by the way). In the middle of it all, as ever more ideas came to me, I was reminded of how differently I approach conflict than I used to.
Way back, I’d think, Okay, I need to make sure there’s enough conflict in the story. It wasn’t like I didn’t know it needed to be there, but more like i was worrying I was making it too easy for my protagonist.
Typically, that worry would come with good reason.
One of the appeals of short stories is that my heroines don’t have to suffer for long. I like that.
In a novel, I just about had to be tortured into torturing my heroines. The entire time I’d be screaming, “But I know her backstory. It’s awful. Hasn’t she suffered enough?”
Yes, it’s obvious. My heroines are made of tougher stuff than I am.
Anyway, so I’d pour through the story looking for ways to make her life worse.
Not anymore. Oh, I have key scenes that are in my mind when I begin planning, and most of the time they make it in, but much of what I need, well, just happens.
Okay, I’m making myself sound like a genius. It’s actually quite simple. If you toss in the right mix of backstory, characters, and plot you don’t even have to mix it up. Pour it all in like ammonia and bleach and you have a toxic mix that’ll create more conflict than you know what to do with.
*I do know what happens if you mix ammonia and bleach. Don’t do it! It’s deadly. Really, I’m serious.
I’m close to abandoning the notes stage of my planning and opening a Scrivener project for Zepha’s story. In large part that’s because of what happened today when I realized all the people who’d have a reason to want her to suffer. Or worse.
Each character has a backstory that tells how they came to be the character they are in the present. Plot allows all the characters’ paths to cross. Given Zepha is the protagonist, she crosses a lot of paths.
There are many people who object to Zepha’s presence in their town, some to the point they’d do her harm if they thought they could get away with it. When a powerful artifact is stolen and she’s the one person with any knowledge of its past and its possibilities, she becomes necessary to the investigation, which increases the paths she crosses. Conflict.
Kidnappings follow and those who hate look first to those they hate the most. Conflict again. Too, it’s a different brand of conflict for each relationship. There’s the former mentor who believes Zepha betrayed witchcraft when she was arrested and landed on parole for ten years. There’s the parole officer who’s always wondering if Zepha is taking another step down another dangerous road. On and on it goes.
It’s almost like all I have to do is give them all names, provide a structure, and get out of the way. Oh, I’ve a ton of prep to do, but I can see the story forming and the conflicts soaring. This is what I love about planning in October. I have a month of revelations before I write.
And then, for all of November, the revelations my characters provide seemingly never end.