Commuting has its advantages...28 Oct 2010
Yesterday I spent 8 hours on train journeys. As often as not, I read or work when commuting to and from my office base over in Rugby but yesterday I decided to use the time to do some planning work for the novel. I created a whole stack of potential new characters and did mini biogs of each. Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo suggests that adding (or indeed killing off) a few characters can be a useful way of adding to word count but when thinking about it I realised that I had no idea how many characters are actually portrayed in many of the novels I read. Obviously there are the main characters but a quick and dirty review of a first chapter of a Tess Gerritson showed a surprising number of interactions between people. Many of these do not become characters of course, they are as incidental as the operating theatre equipment in her chapter but presumably, one has to have an idea of who these people are and I guess, some of the important-if-not-central characters have to be ‘managed’ and behave as the reader might expect of the way they are described. So, I have a stack of people to call on, all of whom would be in that environment and each with something in their biog that will make them memorable to me as I write them into the novel. One has a skin condition for example and yes, he is sort’ve based on someone I once knew. Then came the thorny problem of naming the characters. One character who will have an important role in the story (a sort of baddie) in my head looks like the magnificent actress Miriam Margolyes whom I have loved with a passion ever since she said that her only regret about ageing as a woman was “_the loss of my magnificent bush”. _Is it OK to use either part of her name or will this just end up being restrictive? Then there is the issue of making names believable. Someone I know has a name made up of 7 syllables: I wouldn’t use such a long name for a character in a novel but then again, I don’t want any of my names to sound like an old film or pop star either (Rock Presley anyone?). Friends have asked me to name characters after them but I am not going to go there……
I also plotted out my environment - a challenge in itself as I am no artist and I struggled with plotting buildings which have more than one level. Many years ago an author referred to a building being in a particular place in their landscape but earlier had said it was in a completely different place. Poor editing. It spoiled the whole read as I just couldn’t get past thinking, “_well that couldn’t have happened there because she couldn’t have gotten to it in time”. _I am mindful then, that the landscape needs to make sense. So, I created the broad landscape in (very) rough sketches but then I wondered about detail. My story takes place in a hospital: Do I need to sketch the whereabouts of the every-hospital-has-one staff canteen even though as far as I am yet aware, there are no elements of the story set in a staff canteen?
Finally I worked on the plot development - ‘finally’ is interesting in itself. The hardest part of any novel writing surely? There is a continuum of procrastination with procrastination itself featuring on it!
I have ‘sections’ of the story with planned word count and each section has component parts of the story. Taken as a whole it should have the kind of pace I am looking to create from innocently languid to terrorised crescendo, not forgetting the key ingredients always found in my type of novel (and aerobics classes) the warm up of the prologue and the epilogue cool down (ready to start again - book 2?).
So, it was a busy old journey and thanks to Virgin for the really very good coffee. The ticket collector looks exactly like my nurse manager…
PS Cath noted that my start date of 1st November is both a binary and palindromic date. 011110. This makes me smile though I don’t know why.