A Team Effort with Imaginary People

 

 

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Writing a novel isn’t easy.

There are moments of doubt about the overall book. Crippling, terrifying doubt. (This idea is stupid. I am stupid. None of this makes any goddamned sense.) You pick your story apart, piece by tiny piece, until it’s in ribbons. But that’s not even the hardest part.

For me, at least, getting the characters going is the real nail-biter. At first, they feel flat and tepid and boring (and that’s being polite). There’s a time when it feels like the minor characters, especially, are just hollow plastic dolls that you’re bashing together while you play pretend in your head.

The thought of breathing life into dozens of imaginary people can be paralyzing.

Think of all the people you talk to in a day. Imagine their thoughts, their dreams, what they ate for lunch, where they’re going after work. They’re running late. They’re out of milk. They got shit to do.

Characters are like that. Individuals, all with their own concerns and priorities and issues. They don’t give a crap about your Hero’s story; they’re too busy living their own. It’s tempting not to give a crap about them, either: how dare they not fawn over your Hero the way you do? But each of them needs just as much attention as your main attraction, if they’re to feel real. And the only one holding the God-pen is you.

It won’t happen. Not this time. I’ve used everything up.

You show up to the story anyway, feet dragging if they need to. Tantrums are expected, if not outright encouraged. You sit and scowl at one of these pretend people until both of you feel a little uncomfortable.

Eventually, one of you will break.

“Okay, fine,” she’ll mumble. “I’ll tell you a little about myself. Listen close; I won’t do this again.” And your character will talk about how she couldn’t afford college, which robbed her of the career she wanted. She settled. She pretends like she’s happy, but she’s far from it: she’s miserable and exhausted and bitter. And, okay, sometimes it makes her grouchy. It makes her snap at your beloved Hero when all he’s done is ask for more coffee.

She won’t tell him why she does these things, but if you’re very, very lucky she might tell you.

And now you’re talking, and though you get to ask some questions most of it is just listening. You take notes as fast as you can because this faucet, once turned off, might not reopen.

And then suddenly, you know her. You know exactly what made her who she is.

And if you sit very, very still, the others will begin to come forward. “I had no friends.” “I was State Champion before I hurt myself.” “I fought against the odds, and won. These losers need to suck it up.”

You don’t breathe. You don’t dare scare them away. Minors are well aware they’re not the stars of your show, and understandably they’re reluctant to give you their stories. Why should they bother? You won’t use most of it, anyway.

But you want them to be alive, just as alive as your Very Important Person. Because if they’re just props, we’ll all know it and none of us will feel very good about it.

Here’s the thing: you can’t go any further in your novel without these temperamental jerks. They hold the fate of your story in their stubborn little fists. And sometimes they like to make you sweat for a while, wondering if they’ll ever tell you what makes them tick. So you wait (im)patiently, fingers crossed, hoping that eventually they’ll help you flesh out this world of yours.

My minors finally came to chat over coffee this weekend. They told me their secrets. Some went deeper than I expected. I am thrilled to finally know them.

And (just like that!) all those loose ends tied themselves up. There’s nothing in the way of the book, now.

Game on.

A Love Letter, From Me to You

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Thank you.

If you’ve ever read a single one of my stories, if you’ve come to be a friend online, if you found me two seconds ago and you’re wondering who the hell this chick is (hang around, I’m fun, I promise): thank you for being here.

I’ve been through some pretty dark days this past year. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that for a while there I fell out of the loop. Stopped blogging. Stopped doing a whole lot of things. I’ve had a novel sitting here in maddening disarray for months because I just couldn’t get my shit together long enough to finish it.

Then you came along.

Those of you relentlessly hounding me for the next novel (and I say that with love).

Those of you who took a chance on some crazy author chick and let me be a part of your day, on FB or IG or wherever.

Those of you who are watching and waiting for me to fail (hi!).

Because of all of you, I’m not giving up on this writing thing. Because of you I’ve dusted off that tatty old manuscript and I’m ready to rock it. I’m going to jump back in with both feet and a head full of dreams.

So thank you. For everything. Let’s have some fun together, shall we?

-Stef

*image from uppercase mag

Guess What Came in the Mail…

Crooked Little House

Crooked Little House comes out on Tuesday!

I’ll be doing a giveaway on Facebook, and you have to be a fan of my author page to enter. Swing by and show me some “like”; giveaway details to follow once I climb down from this cloud.

It’s finally here. I’m finally a novelist.

Brave New Novel

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This is it.

My novel is DONE.

What you’re seeing here is my baby, all dressed up and ready to go. I’m lucky enough to have a good friend editing (and as an indie, helpful friends are EVERYTHING); this is the copy I’m giving to her tomorrow.

The formatting is arranged. The cover is designed. I feel like it’s a good, clean copy.

This is happening.

IT’S ALMOST HERE, YOU GUYS.

Horror’s Not Dead

horror dead

 

…is it?

I like to read horror novels (shocker, I know). They’re my favourite night reads, nestled under the covers and with a hot cup of tea on the nightstand. And though I don’t read horror exclusively, it’s fair to say that as one honing my writing craft, I tend to focus on my own genre.

So I went to Chapters the other day, looking for a few fresh reads to see me through my week off from DayJob. I beelined to the horror section, which has recently been relegated to the far back corner.

There used to be a whole horror aisle: shelves on both sides piled high with scares.

Then horror was squeezed to one side of the aisle, with a shelf or two of overflow on the other.

But now it’s dwindled even more. The horror section is now being encroached upon by true crime, and sports some unsettling bare spots to boot.

What happened? In my personal life alone, I know a handful of horror fans. I know more online (and I’m lucky enough to interact with a number of them, here and through Facebook). I know we’ll never be as big a market as, say, romance, but come on. It was 75 percent Stephen King and the rest was mostly stuff I’ve already read, by a very few authors.

Is it the paper book itself that is suffering, accounting for that tiny sliver of (physical) shelf space? Is it the genre? There are new horror movies out all the time; it can’t be the scares themselves. So what gives?

You’re here, and that almost certainly means you’re on Team Spooky. So where the hell is everyone else?! Should I feel excited at the apparent lack of “competition”, or should I entertain this soul-crushing doubt that tells me the good ol’ days are over?

If you’re out there, speak up! Come say hi! Tell me you exist! Us weirdos need to stick together.

The Blanket

I’m not exaggerating when I tell people it’s like Halloween every day in this house. Some people have an abiding love of angel knickknacks. Some collect fine porcelain. Me? If it has a skull on it, odds are it will find a place in my home.

That being said, it’s not all gloom. There’s a sugar skull, embellished and dainty. There’s the vodka, the cut-glass bottle gleaming like crystal.

And now there’s this:

skullblanket

 

It took me about four months, during which time I had to teach myself to crochet. It weighs a ton, and the colours are even more eye-searing in real life. It’s gaudy and kitschy and I’m so damn proud of myself for finishing the thing.

And now that winter is kinda, sorta finally here, I plan to spend my lazy Sunday afternoon curled beneath this Technicolor monstrosity, book in hand and coffee at the ready.

(To give credit where credit is due, I stole the idea from Granny Mania via Pinterest. But those 630 squares? All me, baby.)

IT’S ALIIIIIIVE!

…by which I mean, I’m alive. How the time flies when you’re slacking off on your blog.

Sorry ’bout that.

So. Uh. Long time no see. Since the last time you saw me, we’ve welcomed a new niece into the world. I’ve started a new DayJob (same company, but I moved on up to the fourth floor). Oh, and I wrote my first novel. It’s still in the roughs, but as we speak I have a real, live, full-length novel sitting on my desk. It’ll be out in the next month or two.

I’ve done some deep thinking about where I want my writing career to go, and about what that looks like, in terms of the day-to-day. I think what made the blog fall apart before was that I was focusing so hard on new content that the actual writing stopped. It stopped for a long time, actually. Completely. Cold. I have never felt worse about myself; conversely, while I was writing the novel this past Fall I was the happiest I’ve ever been.

So, a balance. A fresh start. I have no idea how often I’ll be blogging; I have zero schedule in mind. Because at the end of the day, the effort needs to be about the writing, not the talking about the writing. That being said, I think I can pull off more than once every two years, if I hold my tongue just right. Who’s with me?

 

-Stef