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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Write that Novel!

I can't tell you how many good novels
I've seen ruined this way.
Welp, folks, I was at the library yesterday, and it looks like they're running out of books again.  The librarian gave me a woebegone face over the tops of her trifocals and I realized if the earth wasn't going to run out of reading matter altogether, I'm just going to have to sit down and write myself a novel.  I'm a pretty busy man myself - what with FarmVille, computer solitaire, and nap time - and I have half an impulse to turn the whole chore over to one of my flunkies.  "Flunky," I'd say, "the world needs another novel, and it's up to you to write one!  I figure it shouldn't take you more than a couple of years, now go out there and make a name for yourself!"  And I'd sit back and see if I couldn't grow some imaginary vegetables on Facebook, given that crows keep eating my real ones.
So now that I know I'm going to write a novel, what will I need?   Well, first and foremost: words.  Incredible as it may seem, these few scant keys on my computer can supply me with any word that I know, all the words I don't know, plus a lot of words that don't even exist, such as ioug, for example, and ourga.
So we're set as far as words are concerned, and the next thing we need - and opinions differ here, but I'm a stickler for this sort of thing - is people.  In the novel writing business, we call these "characters."  I hate throwing all this technical jargon at you, but writing is a complex business and you can't expect it to be easy.  Fortunately, it's not hard to get these people or "characters," because I'm surrounded by people all the time.  (Except when I need to borrow money, ha-ha.)  A lot of these people will jump at the chance to be in a novel.  Just tell them you're writing a novel, and they'll say, "Can I be in it?"  I think they have the impression that if they were in a book, they'd be able to walk around inside it and peep out and see who's reading it, but I don't bother explaining it doesn't work that way.  Let them dream.  Of course later, when they see how the novel turns out, they might not be so keen to be in it anymore, but that's their lookout.
So we have plenty of people for characters, which is a good thing, because I say when it comes to people in novels, the more the merrier, unless you want to write about a talking dog, which now that I think of it, is not such a bad idea, so we'll have a talking dog in there, too.  Of course, some of these people, I won't include.  Mable, for example.  I don't know if you know her, but there's something shifty about her.  She's never done anything wrong, so far as I know, but there's just something shifty.  But it's not enough to have people; things have to happen.  You can't just have your characters sitting around looking at each other, waiting for something to happen.  Oh, that sort of thing might've worked out alright for Chekhov, but we've advanced beyond that by now, and all the brightest readers pretty much agree they want novels where things happen.
I don't want to overtax your brain here, but in the writing biz we call these things a "plot."  So let's take some events: getting flowers, being hit by a safe, and leaving the hospital.  Sounds good doesn't it?  Just the sort of book you'd like to read?  Not so fast, chucko, because now you've got to think about what order those things happen in.  If a guy gets hit by a falling safe, later gets some flowers, and then leaves the hospital - that's a happy story, but if he leaves the hospital, gets some flowers, and then gets hit by a falling safe - that's a sad story.  If he leaves a safe, gets hit by some flowers, and receives a hospital, the story won't even make sense.  So you can start to see how complicated this is.  I can't tell you how many perfectly good books I've read with wonderful happy endings ruined because at the end everyone gets hit by a falling safe.
So now, I've got a slew of people to be in my book, a bunch of interesting events, and possibly a talking dog, so I just need to tap out 70 thousand words or so, run "spell check" on the computer, and ship that sucker to my agent.  The local library will be back in business in no time.
Where's that flunky?

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