Last night, I finished the Reclamation trilogy. I say “last night”, but by the time you’re reading this, it will have been a bit longer than that. I don’t really know what to do with myself for consistency, so I’ll be chipping away at this for a few days. So when I say, “last night,” what I mean is January 6th. Technically. I was still awake from the 5th, in reality. It was about 1am.
Not to get sidetracked. I posted this and it’s a good summary of my progress:
I’ve had people ask how I did it. I have some pretty trite answers, which I try not to use. Among the more trite ones:
-write every day
-I don’t know
So in an effort to be honest with us all, I’ll explore the process and we’ll see what pops up. Maybe we’ll both figure it out, because “I don’t know” is honestly pretty close to the truth.
The first time I met Addy and Jack was November of 2014. I was hugely pregnant at that time, and doing very little concentrating on stories. I wrote a lot of flash that year, because I was really just too tired to really do much more. To tell the truth, I didn’t realize it was that long ago. This first introduction gave me a glimpse into the world in which they lived, and who they were to each other.
The idea germinated for a while, popping up again after postpartum exhaustion began to wear off. In May of 2016, I wrote a longer piece of flash (about 1500 words) you can find here. Reading it is weird and difficult. I considered taking it down. SO much has changed since that early story, it’s hardly even the same thing. But I want you to see what part of the process was for me, and be honest about it, so it stays. Character creation is, what I consider, one of the top three most important things about telling a story. And for a longer story, character is number one.
It’s their story, so I have to let them tell it.
And in order to let them tell, I need to know who they are. More than that, I need to connect with them. In that early story, you can see Addy is only 17. My initial idea about the story was post post-apocalypse. I wanted to tell the story of someone who grew up during the zombie apocalypse and after a cure was found, how they coped with life. Their whole outlook would likely be different. I didn’t know exactly how, and that’s where “who is Adelaide” becomes important.
At some point, I thought it would be fun and illustrate the differences better if I also told the other side of the story – her father. Someone who lived half their life before the apocalypse happened, and the other half during. How would that experience change someone, and how would they deal with life differently because of it?
It was always easy for me to see who the father was, and how he might deal with life differently compared to someone who grew up during it. But Addy, that was the problem. I didn’t much like her, I didn’t connect with her. Because I didn’t connect with her, I couldn’t figure out who she really was. After toying with the character for a while, I realized what needed to happen. She needed to be older. So, I aged her up to twenty-three and the click was audible. I was off to the races.
Now, when diving into the how of the writing, I have to stay away from specifics. Obviously I can’t talk about plot points. What I can tell you, is I chose a very specific type of character arc for Addy. I knew where she was starting, and where she was ending. Otherwise, when I began writing this trilogy, I considered myself a full-on pantser. Meaning I wrote entirely by the seat of my pants. I like to think I had a pretty good handle on the basics of what went into a story, and about where they fell.
That’s it for part 1. Join me for part 2 next week, where I go more in-depth about the things I learned about story structure and how the pieces fit together.