Premature Ending?

It’s Sunday. I spent all day yesterday either out, or watching my Stargate SG-1 DVDs. I expected to be writing, catching up on my NaNoWriMo novel, which got set back this week by a few things, but instead decided to–well, I haven’t decided anything yet.

But the story? It’s sucking. Hard. Maybe you can help me out here?

The story tells the tale of this guy, Nicandro, who’s… well, hell, I don’t even know what he does. That’s part of the problem. I don’t care what he does. I don’t care about any of the characters in the story, except one, Grandpa (also named Nicandro), and he dies in the second chapter.

So maybe I should make the story about him.

Anyway, the story deals with Nicandro and some of the situations that come up during the holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s) after an especially tumultuous set of years. First, in Halloween, we learn of some of the challenges he’s faced in the areas of health, romance, religion and death, and that sets us up for seeing how they’re resolved (or dealt with) over the next three holidays, as well as what happens when they crop up again. Thanksgiving, for example, continues the whole religion question, but focuses more on family issues, including the whole romance. (Problem is the guy’s married, but a friend who was more than just a friend shows up in his life, which leads to some conflict.) It also focuses more heavily on money. Then Christmas focuses almost entirely around money and religion. By this time, things are getting weird between the “friend” and Nicandro, and that begings to spill over into other parts of his life. At the same time, he’s making strides in fixing his money situations and we begin to understand how religious and family issues begin to get resolved. Finally, there’s New Year’s, where things are resolved (somewhat), and new challenges arise, but now that we know Nicandro we can guess how he’ll meet them.

In short, the novel’s one giant flashback after another. And it doesn’t really have a bad guy, it’s more like a literary novel, which is unlike anything I’ve ever written. For the most part, most of my stories have been about discovering a good guy or a bad guy, about lessons learned and about awakening, but none of these have been novel length. I guess I’m left wondering whether I’d want to READ something like this novel, let alone WRITE this.

I’m considering dropping Nicandro’s story and going with Grandpa’s story instead. Maybe after the death, Nicandro finds diaries outlining his grandfather’s various adventures during travels, but… that’s sort of cliche. Or maybe Nicandro goes insane and becomes a cult leader and, strangely enough, retains his place as the hero of the story. Perhaps some sort of catastrophe hits, and the story… completely and utterly changes. I don’t know. But I think the point is that perhaps it’s time to revisit the drawing board.

Time is short. If I want to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge, I better make changes and make them fast. And I have to get more interested in this story. Some story.

Honestly, I think the bulk of my problem is that I haven’t read anywhere near enough novels as of late. I’ve been so busy with other things that reading novels has taken a back seat. (And yes, I’ll put the blame here on watching too much Stargate SG-1. I’m on the fourth season, which is really, really good. I’d blame it on Heores, too, but this season nothing short of sucks.) Last night, I picked up Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvouz with Rama. If I’m going to start somewhere I might as well make it in the pages of a novel by one of the greats, right?

The scariest part in all of this? Like most of my characters, Nicandro has a somewhat autobiographical aspect. Problem is, he’s turned out to be far more autobiographical than I’d anticipated. He’s not me, but he does have similar challenges (plus a number of his own). And maybe that’s my problem: he’s too close, and I’m just too boring. Also it violates one of my core rules, which is to never base characters on real people, not even myself.

Maybe it’s time I sit down with Nicandro and Vevila (his wife), Andrea (a long-time friend), Gallah (his sister), Gallah’s kids (Thor, Eddie and Kay), Andrew and Maysun (his parents), Warcraft the cat (who likes to hang out in the toilet), and Dobbie the smiling dog and see what makes them interesting. Part of me wonders whether this is smart, considering my time constraints, but that part’s quickly silenced by the knowledge that if I don’t get that done then the novel will remain unfinished.

For those of you who I know will ask, I decided not to write about Monkey because the NaNoWriMo rules state that it has to be a new concept. Monkey already has a history, has characters, has a world, and I wanted to follow the rules and start from scratch. But who knows, maybe I’ll end up tying this to that anyway. Actually…

5 thoughts on “Premature Ending?

  1. Well, Here is a suggestion.

    I never participated in NanoWiMo but if I have some friends who have encouraged me to participate regardless of my interest in writing.

    If it has been promoted to me correctly, my understanding is this.

    The point of it is to just write, and disregard the edit process in terms of both grammar and substance, correct?

    So why not just force the writing? Doesn’t matter if all you put down is “Nicarando goes to the fridge, he opens it and pulls out a soda after long deliberation,…” and so on. At some point shouldn’t forced writing pull you off into an interesting tangent?

    And if it seems overall autobiographical, use it to your benefit. Use the things you do daily and write it into your story in a 3rd person journal-like experience which has Nicarando living the day you just had. Do this until you hit your muse, or perhaps edit parts to adjust for the action you wished you had taken.

  2. Regarding the point of NaNo, you’re correct to a certain extent. Thing is, for me, life’s too short to waste my time writing crap. If I’m bored reading a story–let alone writing it!–why continue with it? I know I can write 50,000 words in a month. I’ve done it before. (Heck, if you count my work writing, I do it nearly every day!) But to write 50,000 words in one story, in one month? Now that’s another matter entirely.

    That said, I’ve already written over 10,000 words, and I don’t care to leave this as it is. There’s a world here, and in it there are great stories to tell. I’ve just not been focusing on the right one.

    As far as autobiographical tones are concerned, your idea of journaling the experience is one I’ll consider, but it still makes Nicandro too close to me; that has a LOT of pitfalls I don’t care to enumerate, not the least of which is that if I start including people in my real life as part of my novel, even when they’re caricatures of what the real person is like, then I run the risk of (1) offending someone, and far more importantly (2) making characters completely flat.

    So what to do from this point? The more I think about it–and I’ve been thinking about it all day–the more I’m thinking that maybe the grandfather had a far more colorful past than even Lily Lee, a neighbor of his in the retirement community he lived, could even guess to know. (Or did she?) And perhaps Nicandro decides to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. Or… maybe not.

    Anyway, thanks for the suggestions, and I’ll keep you updated.

  3. 1) Isn’t a character getting to close for comfort what comes with becoming a writer?

    2) If you write enough crap, you’ll write about something good. There is always something more interesting out there. Yet the things i find the most interesting are the things I can rely on the most.

    3) It sounds like you are going through what runners call ‘the wall’ which im sure you already know all about with the depletion of one food source and the beginning of the digestion of the other and what not. Come on Gnorb! you can do it!!!!

    Food for thought.

    All the best!

  4. 1) “Too close for comfort” means that the character becomes far too modeled on a real person. The problem with that is that it tends to make for either flat characters or a flat world. It works in some types of writing (first person, limited third person) but fails in others (third person). At least that’s always been my experience.

    2) Yeah, but there’s a difference. I’ve written crap which I was interested in just to realize later that “yeah, it’s crap.” But at least I was interested in it. Given the current story, I’m not interested in it, so why not drop it? See that’s what happens when you realize you’re writing crap, you stop writing crap and move onto something less crappy. You don’t keep writing the same crap, don’t keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. It’s like reading War and Piece, hating every page of it, then telling yourself, “if I read enough of this eventually I’ll like it.” Sometimes you’re just not ready to read (or write) that story just yet.

    3) I’m not quitting, that’s for sure. In fact, this whole article was about NOT quitting. It was merely venting some of the thoughts running through my mind at the time. I’m stopping with the current story line as it’s shaped, because it’s utterly unsatisfying and I’ll simply be wasting my time by continuing down that path. I wrote the post to sort of “think out loud,” as they say, and see what new ideas might come. (One came up last night during a conversation with someone who read this.)

    As for food, the food’s been me not reading anywhere nearly enough novels as of late. been too focused on non-fiction, and if I want to write short stories and novels, I should probably read more of those.

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