Thursday, 11 April 2013

When characters don’t behave…


Writing Residual Belligerence (Hil) took me a year, Blatant Disregard (LC) took about a year and a half – I’ve just found my notebook with the first scribblings of Harsh Realities (NG) and it’s dated exactly three years ago!
I used to think I could write a book a year, pretty much, but here I am three years later and still working my way through the complexities of NG’s story.
I know that partly the increasing time scales are due to the fact that I started writing LC while I was editing and finishing up Hil, and then writing NG whilst editing and finishing up LC. I find it hard to switch between writing and editing, and when I’m polishing and editing one story, it’s tough to click back into that place where I can get into a different character’s head to move their story on.
Editing feels like work. Writing is fun. Writing is what I do to go somewhere else, to be someplace where I have total control, mostly, over what happens. Where I can play. Where sometimes I don’t know what might happen next and I get surprised by my characters when they do or say something unexpected. Editing is what I do to make a story right, to tie up all the loose ends, weave through all the threads and intricacies of plot and character development and check consistencies, not to mention the whole proofreading process at the end. Work. No wonder each book has taken longer.
My characters have also become increasingly complex. Hil is very straight forward. I worked through a lot of anger issues when I was writing the first book (long story). I listened to Linkin Park, very loud, and drove too fast with conversations and arguments between characters always buzzing in my head. But the Thieves’ Guild books are really about LC. He’s always been my main character, and I’ve been writing about these characters for almost twenty years, but I was always in awe of him. He was supposed to make an appearance in Residual Belligerence but when it came to it, I couldn’t write it. It ended up as a flashback. Hil was telling LC’s story and it was that that got me to a point where I finally felt I could handle reckless, unpredictable, incorrigible LC.
The second book didn’t just take longer because I was finishing up the first. LC is hard work. He’s based on someone who was an incredible character and I always feel that I have to live up to his legacy. I hope I’ve done him proud.
But if I thought LC was difficult, being with NG is proving to be exasperating. When NG first appeared in my short stories a long time ago, he was always cocky, bright, mischievous… Now? Now, I’ve thrown so much at him, it feels like he’s reeling from it. All that anger from a few years ago hasn’t gone but it’s changed. I feel changed and NG’s story is very much about change. I’m sure he’ll come through it in the end. That has to be the point, doesn’t it?

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