Monday, November 8, 2010

Talking Heads

Week 2 in the NaNo trenches and I must say I am pleased that Claire, Rachel, Jen and Susan nagged (sorry, enticed. (g)) me into signing up. I’ve managed to get about 24k of new material down and that is always a good thing.

For my NaNo experience, I am starting from scratch. A completely new story. Of course, starting something new is a different process than revising. It got me to thinking about how new stories take shape. How does one begin a novel? Do you start with the first line of the story –It was a dark and stormy night… *w* Is it a good plot rundown that you outline in detail? Every one has a different approach.

In my case, it all comes down to characters. Before I know the exact plot, before I know my mc’s names, or what they look like, I hear them. They are talking heads. Out of the quiet come their voices, a discussion.

In Britannia, I heard two distinct conversations between a man and a woman, later named Simon Hunt and Olivia Monday.

Here is the first:

He caught her up and pulled her hard against him. It was to her credit that she did not flinch, only waited for him to ease his hand away from her mouth. “Hunt,” she hissed. “I’m beginning to think you will find any opportunity to get your hands on me.”

He smiled against her ear, but held firm when she tried to edge away. “My nights are filled with constant plotting.” She harrumphed and his fingers tightened at her tiny waist. “You are supposed to be playing house with Wintour, Monday. Lost your way?”

“Bosh. He is master and wife all on his own.” She lowered her voice to a breath, turning her head slightly so her soft cheek brushed the tip of his nose. “I thought it time to catch a rat.”

“It is a very big rat, Monday. You might get bitten.”

She was all business. “That is why I shall let you lead. While he takes a chunk out of you, I shall hit him with my cudgel.”

Only then did he notice she had the slim brass club she insisted in hiding in her bustle in hand. Of all the preposterous… He opened his mouth to speak when they heard a rustling. Instantly, he went still, squeezing her arm to convey she do the same. END

I had, at that point, no idea what is going on or who is this rat that they are intent on catching. But it does tell me a great deal about the type of characters they are and how they are going to interact throughout the story.

Following on the heels of that exchange, another bit popped up:

He made to go but stopped when she bent around and, with a few tugs and various vile mutters under her breath, proceeded to wrench her silk skirts free from her bodice. He could only stare as it billowed in a cloud of crimson satin to the floor, revealing long legs clasped in black leather. Leather that fit like a second skin. He looked at the wall, away from a decidedly heart shaped arse.

“Good, God, tell me you don’t intend to go out like that.” He sounded like a prude. No, he did not care. Like hell was he going to put up with this. He’d be forced to defend her honor the second they made it above ground. That wasn’t his job.

“I do wish, Hunt, that you would cease asking questions.” She fussed about, forcing him to glance back. Just in time to see her slide the electric torch and the cudgel into a leather holster strapped around her thigh. An electric blaster hung in a holster-belt slung low on the curve of her hips. Bloody hell and damn. Liquid, doe eyes gazed up at him. A farce of innocence.

“Rather futile of you,” she said, striding ahead of him. “As you never like the answers.”

He blinked at the pendulous sway of curved hips and round ass for a long moment then felt the tug of an evil grin upon his lips. “You are correct, Monday. I hereby relinquish all exercises in futility.” His gaze settled in for an extended viewing. “Please do lead the way.” END

Yes, who they are is coming to me loud and clear by now. These people like to talk. For them talk is foreplay. Talk turns them on, makes them feel alive. This is Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn in the Philadelphia Story, or Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night. (actually, given my character's penchant for the silly, perhaps Cary Grant and Myrna Loy in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer. (g))

Once I get a lock on my main characters, I can start shaping the world around them. I can sit back and discover the nuts and bolts of this story.

Now I am a chunkster. I don’t follow an outline, though I will say I have made a greater attempt to pull a plot in order before writing whatever comes to mind. But it still always starts with a kernel and that kernel is always in the form of dialogue and character interaction.

So how about you? How do you start your stories?


  1. Great snips, Kristen!

    I think we're a lot a like, actually. I tend to write based on my characters' emotions. I can FEEL a scene almost -- a leaning of emotions that sort of pulls the story this way and that.

    I'm probably explaining this very badly. LOL. The point being, however, that I worry much more about the characters than I do about the larger picture of the story. They always come first -- the emotional flow of how they're feeling, etc.

    I also tend to write the big "dunt dun dun" moments first... and later, I have to figure out how the heck my characters got to that place. It usually comes together eventually. (g)


  2. Thanks, Jen.

    No, I get what you're saying. And we do approach it in a similar fashion. We both connect with our stories by the characters and on an emotional level -erm as opposed to first figuring out a plot! :)

    --oh, and I write the big moments first too! (g)