Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Journey to 500K Update -- A Thought on Lost Memories

I'm well on my way to 500,000 words for the year. I haven't quite settled into a routine of writing a bit each day, but I've written during a clear majority of them and have exceeded my word count expectations almost every day that I sit down.

That being said, it's time to pick up the pace. I gave myself an easy January in order to ease into things and allow time for me to work on outlining and world development. That bit isn't quite done yet, but I can't allow it to impeded my progress.

40-50 thousand is the goal for February. It's over twice as much as I had planned for January. However, I exceeded my goal for January, so I am confident that I can do so again for February.

In addition, ideas are brimming over left and right from my head right now, so I shouldn't have a problem finding material to write throughout this month. The biggest trick will probably be preventing me from distracting myself with other writing projects.

That brings me to my real musings for today: amnesia.

See, I'm well past the first act (of seven) in the novel right now, but I'm having significant difficulty making it all click together. Oh, sure, I know what's supposed to happen next and all that. Events have seldom ever been my problem. Instead, as usual, I'm having a problem convincing the characters to be people and gel with the rest of the world and story.

More specifically, my problem is with the protagonist. At the beginning of the story, I introduce him to the reader as having no memory. Shortly after this, we meet some of his allies from the past and they begin to fill him in on a few of the important bits, but never so much that you really understand his past (and neither does he).

This makes it really difficult to give the man a personality; and even more difficult to convey that personality to the audience.

Naturally, I'm going to be revealing the truth about his past at various points throughout the book (the nature of truth and memory and responsibility are all important themes in the story). But I can already tell from my outlining that these revelations are going to be spaced out quite thinly, and we're going to be in a dry patch here for most of the second act.

This is an issue. I know that I haven't established this man as a character effectively yet, so the majority of his character development in acts two and three, and then the subsequent revelations planned for acts four and five, are going to be relatively meaningless because the reader doesn't care.

I need to fix this.

But then the question becomes when do I fix it? I could try to work in some of the revelations to be earlier in the outline, but I'm trying to convince the audience that he's a certain way before dropping paradigm shifts into the story. It's kind of the core focus of the book -- I don't know if it's going to work, but I want to at least try.

I could, instead, try letting him keep pieces of his memory from the start. That would give him a much more definite personality, and it would present a multi-layered mystery (what has happened in his past, as he sees it; then, later, what actually happened in the past, etc.). I like this idea a lot.

The only problem there, then, is that I've already passed up the opening of the book and have established him as being this confused amnesiac. I know a number of authors talk about "breaking" their story halfway through by changing character personalities and introducing concepts that had otherwise gone unmentioned. I like the idea, but I've never been very good at it. Especially when it comes to characters.

So, for now, I'm just going to push through to the end (or as far as I can get this year) and keep a record of all the things that aren't working and/or need to change. Then I'll go back and have a better idea of what I'm doing on the second draft. (Yeah, sounds like a tedious process, I know. Maybe I'll talk about multi-draft writers versus outline-based writers in a future post.)

Anyways, that's where I'm at right now. If you'll excuse me, I have to go save my protagonist from the mind of a crazy circus gnome.

Current Word Count for the Year: 23,214/500,000

1 comment:

  1. For my money, I don't think that memories=personality. It's perfectly possible to have us like a character in spite/because of his absolute uncertainty of who he is. That said, amnesia is thorny for any number of reasons. Did you see the new Extra Credits about this?
    Good luck on the word count. It's a pretty fantastic goal. Keep us posted!