Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day 3, March 31, 2010

The new characters keep on coming. Two more supporting roles. With principal characters, I rely on the biographies I've written for them. With supporting characters, I rely on intuition and experience. As I see the supporting characters emerge on the page and listen to them talk, I get a sense of who they are. When I started out as a writer, these spontaneously drawn characters were sometimes—well, quite often—at odds with the principal characters and distorted the story lines they inhabited. I'd have been better off if I'd sketched out who they were in a paragraph or two before I dropped them into the story. But I see that now with the benefit of hindsight. At the time, I muddled through and went back and fixed things in the rewrite(s).

By doing things the hard way, though, it seems I've developed a facility for getting supporting characters right the first time. But the question arises: Why bother having more than a bare minimum of supporting characters in the first place. It's simply a matter of taste. I enjoy reading and writing about principal characters who have personal links—supporting characters—to the world around them. Crazed loners don't do anything for me.

Which raises another point. People often say that writers are solitary workers. Not me. When I sit down to write, I'm surrounded by a cast of characters. In my mind's eye, I can see what they look like. There must be a mind's ear, too, because I can hear them talk. Sometimes, they tell me to turn down the music I have playing in the background.

I wrote another 2,000 words. If writing a novel is comparable to running a marathon, I've started out by running three 4:30-minute miles.

Day 3 of writing my new novel is done.

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