NaNo 2019 Day 19 — Building the story

I mentioned in another post that the attempt to write a novel has changed the way I look at books. Although that’s not quite right — it’s not just books. It’s changed how I understand all stories.

I’ve always been the person who analyzes a story as it’s unfolding to guess where it might be going. I revel in guessing ‘whodunit’ or in knowing ahead of the reveal that one character was the other character’s father all along. My family calls this tendency the ‘department of plot development,’ and some of them think it’s funny while it drives others crazy.

I mention all of this to say that I’ve always been a story teller, and breaking down stories has always been my jam.

But since participating in NaNo for the first time in 2012 (and in most of the subsequent years since), I’ve spent a lot more time on the craft of storytelling. Learning what all of the plot beats are supposed to be. Hearing from authors on ways they keep their story moving. And I’ve started thinking about how the storyteller got to a point.

For example, before NaNo I might have thought, “since that character mentioned that trophy earlier, it’s going to turn out to be his murder weapon.”

After NaNo, another thought might be, “I wonder whether the author always had the best friend character, or whether they had to put him in so someone would be in the room when the one guy mentions his trophy.”

I have a better understanding of the layers that go in to a story, and which of those probably came first, and why others had to be added. Great writers do this seamlessly, and most published books do it well. But if you ever find yourself reading a book where a character shows up for one scene and then disappears, that was probably a writer who needed to solve a problem and didn’t know how to seamlessly insert the character throughout.

It has also made me a pickier reader / watcher. I’m less willing to put up with frustrating sentence structures and writing tics because I notice them more. I’m more critical of the way a movie plot is constructed, and I notice plot holes more than ever before.

Sometimes I long for the days when I could taste the steak because I didn’t know it wasn’t real, but most of the time I’m glad I picked the red pill.

Happy NaNo-ing!

I’ll be blogging my NaNo 2019 journey right here, so feel free to follow along. And tell me in the comments about something you discovered about your story as you wrote it!

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

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