Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pantsing With a Genie in My Back Pocket (NaNoWriMo November 15th)

One of my writing buddies noticed last night that I am writing the third in a trilogy. Because of that, she assumed I must have it plotted out completely. Her assumption got me started thinking about why I write the way I do, which for NaNoWriMo is mostly seat-of-the-pants (pantsing) instead.

Mostly. You could argue that I have a plot in a vague and misty sense. I do start with an over-arching theme, fateful weather, and a fictional space, the town of Indigo, that is already well developed in my mind. 

I wrote a synopsis and a prologue (which I used as my extract) to the novel, and these mostly serve as a kind of guide for what I expect to write. The denizens of Indigo are characters I first wrote about in 2006, and I am familiar with how they think and act. Mostly. 

It descends into pantsing when I learn anew each year that these characters are not well-behaved. They push into the tale where I didn't expect them, insist that I meet their sister or reminisce with them about their dead grandmother. They do unexpected things that somehow turn the story at a corner I hadn't seen coming. They refuse to cooperate, even trade roles when I do try to plan ahead!

Some choices are deliberate. At least I pretend they are. For example, in back-novel notes written for the first novel, I said Indigo's name was inspired by a Zane Grey title, Riders of the Purple Sage. It might even be true—but mostly I named the town Indigo because the name appeared in my mind, full-blown. It was only afterward that I explained to myself why I had picked that name: Indigo is a blue so dark it is purple. I had loved Zane Grey when I was a very young reader. It was an homage to the purple sage. Mostly.

Sometimes the story heads into a dark cave, and all I can do is grope around until I catch a tiny glimmer of light, or feel the twisted strands of a plot line heading deeper into the darkness. I head for the light or follow the clue blindly because even when story, characters, and fictional space all seem to be acting on their own, I know they mostly arise from my own mind.

I have been feeding the genie in the back of my head all my life, with experiences of my own and stories written by others. Now with a whirl of smoke and a blast of light, the story appears. Magically. 

Mostly. All I have to do is get out of its way, and write.

Total: 27,082 words.