What Do You Want Right Now?

I started this blog entry multiple times, with multiple approaches, and none of them worked, though all of them were true. This morning  had an exceptionally good three-hour writing stretch, when Hero and Heroine met me for breakfast, and we chatted, the three of us, at the kitchen counter, me perched on my stool, pen in one hand and phone with Pinterest board open in the other. Spotify playlist played through my earbuds, but it was their voices I heard, their heads poking over my shoulder, real and alive and chomping at the bit.

Surprised the heck out of me, that flow hitting when it did, but, when I came up for air three hours later, the pages filled with my chicken scratch going every which way (writing otherwise than with the subtly printed lines of a Paperblanks book? Shock horror!) and littered with pink and blue Post-Its, there was a good chunk of story in bullet point draft. No angsting, no agonizing, merely story.

How did that happen? I can’t point to one thing, but I will put a highlight on two things. Okay, three, as discussions with critique partners always jog some sticky stuff loose, though that ties directly into the two things:

  1. What does (character) want right now?
  2. Make a decision.

Super easy, those two. Instead of angsting about everything, take a step back and observe. Character X was doing one thing. Then they were done doing that thing. What thing did they do next? Odds are, they’re going to fulfill a want. In the first scene in question for me today, Heroine wanted Hero to not die in her study. To have him not die in her study, that meant he had to 1) stay alive, and 2) not be in her study. Both easily accomplished by getting Hero out of her study.

Okay, cross the threshold, and he’s technically out. Where to put him, though? Well, what rooms are available? Can’t get lost in too many options (one of my biggest bugaboos) if there is only one option.  So, we have only Room Y? Put him there.

POV shifts to Hero, once he is in room Y. So, he’s there. Now, what does he want, right now? When in doubt, refer to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Since Hero is soaked to the bone wet and freezing, a pretty safe bet is that he wants a) out of those wet clothes, and b) to be warm. Remove wet clothes, wrap in blanket and wait for hot water to be brought up to him. Eighteenth  century here, so it’s going to be a while. What does he want next? This particular hero is an artist, and he had his things with him, so check on the inks, check on the pens, check on the papers that are not drying in Heroine’s study. Phew, that thing is okay. Drat, that one isn’t. Can’t…find…the…other…thing. Calm down, it’s probably drying out downstairs. Etcetera and so on.

The movie in my head flitted between Hero’s scenes and Heroine’s, inserted the right servant who can tell Hero the thing he needs to know but can’t see. Hero has some feelings about this new information, and feelings about those feelings, Heroine sees something she wasn’t supposed to see, and has some feelings about that. Each learns something new about the other, and want to know more about that, but Mutual Friend Character, you ruin everything. (He really does.)

I learned things, like how Hero -an artist, duh- thinks better when doodling, a perfectly natural way to insert Heroine’s predilection for firearms, and  how to get Hero and Mutual Friend Character to a place where Hero does something good (but not good enough, though he’s working on that) and Mutual Friend Character does something dumb that will bite him in the behind later in the story.

Three hours later, I set the pen down. Did a wee bit of notebook hacking (need to do a wee bit  more, at that) and jotted a couple of notes so I’d know where I left off when I came back to this, which I promised myself -and Hero and  Heroine- (Mutual Friend Character can go suck rocks because he is being a doodyhead here) would be as soon as humanly possible. There’s a little ache to leaving the characters when it’s time to take care of other things, but we do not  have a self feeding cat, and domestic management skills were in demand, and I am the designated domestic warrior queen, so had to take a break there.

Even so, the movie in my head kept playing. Totally random life advice, not based off anything that ever happened to me, especially not today, no matter how good the book thing is that you just that second figured out while plunging the bathroom bowl, do not raise the plunger above your head in victory. It cannot end well. Don’t ask me how I know this. I just do.

I’m not saying the rest of the book is going to be the writing equivalent of skipping barefoot through a field of daisies (I’d probably step in cow poop or something, anyway) but those two bits above are a good place to start. What does my character want, right now? Make a decision. Maybe it’s the wrong decision, but that’s what first drafts are for, innit? (See? Dialect. That was a decision.) If it doesn’t work, then do something else.

I suggest locking hypercritical gremlins in a closet. I think Hero and Heroine might have done that for me while I was rooting around the pantry for tea.

 

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