My former life, before that of a writer, was that of a teacher. In other words, I was paid to open my brain and spill out all its contents to my captive audience. If I succeeded in garnering their attention at least until test time, I won (in mind).
Writing isn't all that different. However, now my audience is older and full of volunteers. There's no test, although I am contemplating devising a few.
My biggest weakness, however, remains. I don't want to stop spilling. If I know it, I want you to as well. I like to share everything but my dessert, the kryptonite of my generosity.
A novelist must develop every character she creates. Obviously, some are more important to the story than others and require more growth and detail. But everyone is in the story for a reason, and that reason needs to be explored.
There's something about creating life, even in the world of make-believe. In the fabrication of a character, the author can right the wrongs in her own life, or invent flaws to twist the story into ridiculous directions. Complicated characters are a lot more fun than the simpler-minded ones. Sometimes, a well-made character can even frustrate an author with the argument of how his plan of life should go when it wasn't the original direction of the author's story.
Here's my dilemma. Reverting back to that teaching mentality of the omniscient knowledge-giver, I wish to impart to you, the reader, everything I know, everything I have devised in my characters, everything I know will happen in the story. I'm terrible about spoiling surprises.
As an author, I've had to put a cap on what I know. I had to develop my characters and forget their motives. To tell you outright what anyone else other the main character is thinking insults your ability to learn and derive it for yourself, and it impedes the growth of the main character as he figures it out also.
As much as I would love to tell you it's going to all be okay, I know it's more fun for you as a reader to suffer with the depravity of the character. You don't want to know ahead of time. You want to see him get into trouble, not have another character blow it for you. This also gives you the chance to harbor feeling about the other characters, whether they deserve the appropriated emotion or not. What do they care? They aren't real.
Ouch. That's where I need to give up control. In a matter of days, I gave birth to, raised, and possibly killed my characters. I wove their emotions into the invisible lives of those around them. In doing so, I braided in a piece of myself to each one. They are "my" people, and I have rights to their very souls.
But you, the reader, are real. You have feelings too. And you are the reason I write the stories. I want to tell you everything, because to me, everything matters. Like the doting grandparent who sits the random visitor down at the kitchen table in front of multiple photo albums of the baby's every hiccup. You don't need to know when my character last sneezed. You will need to know a character was witness to another's crime, but to find it out later will give you more suspense.
So I will keep my secrets the best I can. I don't like stepping back and letting go of control. But for you, my audience, I relent. Enjoy, my friends, these who have been created for your pleasure.
I RELY on that squiggly line. So what do I do when I want to write "find," but instead I write, "fins." That's a TOTALLY different meaning, computer, how can you not know that? A publisher reading the sentence, "Jane will fins her true love." will throw the manuscript out with an angry laugh for wasting her time. You have failed me, computer.
While it's a beautiful sight to see no red squiggles on my page, it's a comfortable deception. I still need to read through my work, especially for the glaring homophones that distinguish the educated (or careful) from the non-writers (or lazy). Wanting desperately to earn my keep in the former group, I know I must search for apostrophes when I want the contraction of "it's." Heaven forbid I use the wrong form of "there," as I might as well just start the whole page over.
Sometimes the grammar check, with its more pleasing green squiggle, will lend me a clue with those easily hidden homophones. But I've noticed that Mr. Green Squiggle doesn't always fit my voice and allow the leeway I need my characters to use. I am becoming color-prejudiced. The red line is almost always right, the green one can be ignored.
Then there's that devilish, quick blue line. Oh yes, the auto-correct. The times when the computer smugly assumes it's smarter than me and fixes what I've written without my consent.
Sometimes I'm extremely annoyed by the auto-correct. I am too lazy to hit the little "x" that tells auto-correct to knock it off. I just keep on backspacing, keep on backspacing, keep on backspacing over the word the computer wants to write in my war against the auto-correct. In essence, I am silently arguing with the machine about what word belongs - my made up word, or the computer's properly spelled, but misplaced word.
I lie. It isn't silent. Each type-over pounds the keys louder and louder, until now my letter "n" is nearly wiped off its key.
But I am old enough (oh, just barely) to remember typing reports on a typewriter that had no brain. I could, and did, type complete jibberjabber before hunting down the over-worked correction tape. If I were contemplating novel-writing twenty years ago, I would never have turned out a book. No editor would have had that much time, patience, or humor.
So the question becomes, which would I rather deal with - the pretentious professor of a computer that keeps trying to teach me what is not always correct or the "yes man" without a brain, accepting every word I type as fact.
The professor keeps my mind sharper, to be honest, while not disrupting the flow of thought. But the minute they invent the kinder, gentler teacher that reads my mind, I'll be the first in line to by it.
Arg! Where were you on that one, Red Squiggle?
Numbers. My number 1 obsession. (And yes, I have them ranked. Why wouldn't I?) Because of that, I am breaking the rule in the post, and using all numerical values instead of words where it comes up.
Being a writer is difficult enough - raking through your brain to be as creative as possible. Finding words that make sense, but haven't been used before. And then trying to fit those perfect words within the constraints of proper grammar, syntax, AND voice.
Now throw on top of that rules that don't exist outside of your own brain, but are just as real to you. That's the life of a writer with a slight case of OCD. (Ahh, now you get the title of this blog, don't you? CDO is OCD with the letters arranged in alphabetical order like they should be.) I've started this blog to give you an idea of what it is like to have to write a story that is outside the box, and then be asked to force it into a box. (Disclaimer: I'm not complaining about it. I love to write, and I enjoy a challenge... after it has been solved.)
So what do I do when I come across the fact that, when numbering chapters, I came across 2 chapters numbered 15. This gives me a total of 23 chapters in the book.
The problem? I hate odd numbers. Stupid, bizarre, I know, but it is my illness. When I run, I run even numbers of miles, and make it so that I finish in an even number of seconds. When I watch TV, the volume has to be on an even number. I even delete emails to give myself an even number in my inbox. (If I haven't returned an email of yours, that's why. I deleted it to be even. Sorry.) I can deal with 5, sometimes, but not 1,3,7, or 9. Do I need to tell you now how much I hate the automatic word count at the bottom of my Word document?
So, 23 isn't good. Not only is it odd, it's prime! (Don't get me started.)
So what do I do? Here are the options as I see them:
A. Make the Prologue a chapter.
B. Find a long chapter and split it up.
C. Write a new chapter
Any of the above will add 1 more number to my book, giving me 24, and 24 is a great number! So many GCF's... Ahhhh. Which one will I choose? I haven't decided yet. Probably Option B because it requires less work, and I want this book out now.
I really hope you are entertained by this post. It's gotta be good for something, and a laugh's as good as anything. You can look forward to the craziness in these short posts and be thankful that there is at least one thing in your world that you don't have to worry about.
Everybody's got a little crazy in them. I'm just putting mine on display for all to see!