Okay, so, here is where I’m going to chronicle my journey through my next novel, at the moment titled HAPPINESS AVENUE.
Sounds like some pretentious Franzen-wannabe literary novel, right? Don’t worry—it’s not. In fact, it’ll get a better title, one more befitting the book’s events, eventually. Here’s hoping it comes knocking during the writing.
I’m about to start the actual writing, but here’s some necessary background info:
I’ve been prewriting for over a month.
The prewriting is in the form of character letters. I got the idea from Joe Hill who re-blogged a post regarding something author David Mitchell said. Here’s a similar quote:
“If you don’t believe that [your characters are] real, why should you care about them?” Mitchell asks. He suggests writing your characters’ autobiographies or, better yet, letters from the character to yourself. In doing so, Mitchell notes that you will no longer have to think about how a particular character will respond to a situation. If you know their histories, you can better form their futures—from the actions they will take to the idioms they will use. (http://umich.uloop.com/news/view.php/53162/david-mitchells-advice-to-aspiring-authors)
Here’s a link to the actual quote as I reflagged it.
Writing character letters has been one of the most enjoyable, stress-free forms of prewriting I’ve ever attempted. It’s not tedious and infuriating like outlining, and it’s not removed and unemotional like character biographies. It has freed up my imagination to let ideas percolate without restriction.
I wrote each letter in first person from the character to me, the author. In some cases, the character argued passionately for her inclusion in the book, even implored my assistance: “I need you to help me help my son.”
It’s terrific fun. It has helped me capture the unique voice of each character and discover relevant background details. Some of those details may make it into the book, but many will not. Yet, those details will help inform my crafting of the character as I write the novel’s first draft.
Without the letters, much of my first draft would be doomed to character discovery and thus have to be jettisoned. I hope the character letters will help keep the novel progressing, moving forward, not getting stuck in the mud of characterization.
I’ve written 18 character letters. This is going to be a big book.
I’m not sure how many of these updates I’ll post, but I hope these entries will serve as an informal but interesting documentation of one writer’s journey.
And now it begins.