I have a confession to make. Last month I cheated.
I’ll admit it. I wanted to test the waters. Flirt with some new characters and see how compatible we were. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was a perfect excuse. I could put my current work in progress on the back burner and spend thirty days and nights wrapped in the arms of a fresh, younger, hipper story.
Not that I’m unhappy in my currently relationship. It’s just things were getting a little stale. Looking at the same words, having the same conversations, and banging my head on the desk because of old issues felt dull. I wanted to feel alive again. Get the spark of excitement a writer gets when we first start a story. The rush a blank page of possibilities creates.
A new story during NaNoWriMo wouldn’t have to be a long term commitment. I promised myself: Fifty thousand words and I’m out. I’ll return to my old characters. They wouldn’t miss me anyway since they tend to be self –absorbed; always worrying about their issues and what’s going on in their lives.
So, with only a few days remaining in October, I began to plan my month long escape. With high anticipation, I outlined the story and did research. Files were set up. My writing desk experienced a purge, sort, and reorganization. There may have also been a shopping trip for a new pair of oh-so-sexy comfy pants.
And then November 1st arrived. I opened my notebook to a crisp new page and started to write a prologue. The date passed by in a blur. Writing something new reminded me how much fun creating a story can be. Words dropped onto the page with a ferocity I hadn’t experienced in months. And, most importantly, I loved what I wrote.
I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing first date.
The next week of dates, seven in total, went well. My new characters and I went to some new places- a couple parties, a coffee shop, and a movie. I thought we’d hit it off. My November dalliance promised to be a success.
But circumstances changed during week two. I encountered some problems dating new characters. It turned out, we wanted different things. We were headed in different directions. After numerous concentrated dates, I realized my MMC wasn’t the alpha male I thought he should be on the page. Not only did he have a clingy personality, but his indecisiveness irritated me. To the point I needed to cancel a writing date night to regroup and gather my thoughts.
So I took my new FMC out for coffee. She has this effervescent personality which makes her adored by everyone who meets her and she’s beautiful too. To be honest, I was a bit of jealous and secretly wanted to be more like her.
That is, until I discovered her flaws. It turns out, given the right circumstance, my FMC had a tendency to be quite forward with men. Overly aggressive actually, in a not-so-flattering way, and it had me questioning what type of story I was actually writing.
I cancelled another date.
The next night, I had every intention of meeting my characters for a late night drink. Really, I’d poured a glass of wine, put my oh-so-sexy comfy pants on and everything. But I wasn’t feeling it. Dating these people felt more like a chore than a clandestine romp.
Facing the truth of where our relationship was heading, I knew I needed to end the relationship prematurely. Mid-month approached and if I could go back to my long-term work in progress, I could complete significant edits by the end of the month.
I tried to break it gently to my characters, telling them we were too different, our interests didn’t align, and I wanted something more out of relationship. But I chocked and gave them the worst line imaginable.
It’s not you. It’s me.
As cliché as it sounds, it’s the truth. The MMC is too whiny and the FMC too sexual because it’s how I wrote them. I made their dialogue take twists and turns which messed with their story line. I screwed up the chemistry between them.
With all of the anticipation and planning for NaNoWriMo, I forgot an important step. Know your characters. Find out who they are, where they come from, their likes and dislikes, and their motivations. If I had spent our first date getting to know them rather than worrying about word count, November would have turned out differently.
Next year I’ll plan ahead. Check the character profiles in advance. Flush out the plot and storyline. Review potential locations to visit, and find activities to do. No more blind dates for me.
Or perhaps I’ll be so content in my current relationship, cheating won’t be an option.