Missing Milestones

I had intended to make some sort of note of my hundredth post, but apparently I missed it, as this is my hundred and second. This is absolutely typical of me, as I am notorious for missing important milestones (including my own birthday).

I mean, not the *really* important stuff. For example, Free Comic Book Day is this weekend, I know that. And it therefore follows that the Buddha Birthday Celebrations are also on. This is a family tradition for us – we go get lots of free comic books and cheap manga (my favourite store usually celebrates FCBD with a manga sale) and then we cross the Brisbane River into South Bank for vegetarian food, bathing of the Buddha and other fun.

The Buddha Birth Day Festival is a big deal here in Brisbane. It’s not only the biggest multicultural festival in Brisbane, it’s also, according to its own website, the now recognized as the biggest celebration of the event in the world, with hundreds of thousands of people attending. There is dancing, a Baby Blessing Ceremony (which the ninja underwent two years ago), dozens of vegetarian and vegan food stalls, calligraphy lessons, activities for kids and a hundred other things. If you’re anywhere near Brisbane on this or any other first weekend in May, I really recommend going.

I’m trying to come up with something witty and interesting to say, but Angelina Ballerina is playing beside me and that little dancing mouseling is a brain-sapping idiot.

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting a lot lately. Life outside the computer has been taking a fairly massive dump on me of late. But I’m still hammering away at it. And I’m kind of proud of making it to a hundred posts. Thank you to every single one of you following me – it means a lot!

If there’s any subject anyone would like me to write about, or something, let me know! I would love to get requests!


Captain Of The Story Ship

So do your characters always do what they’re told?

I’ve read many an account of characters getting away from their author, and quite a few people sneering at the very idea because honestly, you’re the author, keep the little bastards under control.

… have I written about this before? God, I have no idea, there are too many entries to read over all of them every day to remember what I’ve already written, and I know I’ve ranted on the subject before but have I done it here?

I don’t know. I’m going to say not. If I have, please point and laugh discreetly.

Anyway, I’ve had characters ‘get away’ before, doing things I hadn’t planned. I actually plan for that, since I tend to write better when I give the narrative its head and see what happens. And I have been criticized for that, because clearly my characters are just made up in my head and they can’t do things on their own because that’s silly. To which I say… well, yes and no.

Yes, technically, my characters are generated by my brain, and have no outside existence and no free will. In theory.

But the brain is a magnificently complicated organ, with several layers of processing going on that have nothing to do with my conscious thoughts. The more fully realized a character is in my head, the better I know them, the more likely I am to suddenly lose the ability to force them to do something that isn’t appropriate to their internal logic.

Seriously, imagine someone you know well, say a family member. Now make that person, in your head, do something wildly out of character, like axe-murdering babies or giving money to Greenpeace. (I’m not judging, I’m just saying, different people have different absurdity-thresholds) It’s hard to do, right? You generally don’t imagine your mother laughing maniacally as she tears live kittens apart with her teeth, because it’s not something she would do. Your brain knows that this is an unrealistic simulation and doesn’t fire up the old adrenal glands because seriously, Consciousness, that is a completely unrealistic fear what are you even trying to pull here.

When you know your characters well enough to understand their internal logic, to get them as people, it’s hard to force them to behave out of character, because deep down you know better. And when they start doing something you weren’t expecting – well, for me, it usually turns out that while my conscious mind hadn’t taken into account this or that minor thing, some lower level of my brain had, and was factoring it into their characterization. Internal consistency is incredibly important in a believable character, and forcing them to behave irrationally in service to the plot doesn’t do anyone any favours. And just as you can often predict the reactions of people you know without thinking it through consciously, you can start doing it with well established characters, too.

So my characters do things I wasn’t expecting sometimes, and it’s often only on the reread that I realize oh, hey, that actually makes perfect sense because she’s actually quite defensive and wouldn’t even have done that so yeah. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and I do have to beat them back onto the planned path, but not often. As a rule, if a character insists on doing something, in my head at least, it’s because it’s in character for them to do that thing at that time, and my subconscious knows it even if my conscious mind hasn’t thought of it yet.

So if people give you crap for letting your characters get away from you, tell them you’re just very in tune with your subconscious. Or that you feel that maintaining plausible characterization is more important than adhering rigidly to an arbitrary plan. Or just ‘screw you, I write how I write and it’s none of your damn business’.

Because it isn’t. We think how we think, we write how we write, and what’s important is finding the process works for you, not what other people think you should do.

Getting Too Comfortable

Oh, God, I forgot to post again. I’m sorry, guys! I really am! I mean, I had a lot to do, with the stuff and the things and the kid falling down the stairs and possibly breaking her nose and needing to be rushed to the doctor (she’s fine, just a nasty bruise, but yesterday was not a good day), so as excuses went I had a decent one, but I’m still sorry. I don’t want anyone looking and finding no post! What if they get mad? What if they unfollow me? Don’t leave! I can be more interesting!

Ahem. Sorry.

Anyway, I’ve forgotten to post a few times lately. In part I think it’s because I’ve just been crazy busy, having to deal with lots of bills and stupid grown-up stuff. But more, I think, it’s because I’m starting to get used to having this blog.  I don’t spend all afternoon worrying about what to write the next morning, and as I believe I may have mentioned once or twice, I have a truly shocking memory. So once I don’t have apprehension acting as a constant reminder, I get comfortable and immediately start forgetting stuff. I’m the same way with vitamins. I buy them. I remember to take them for a few weeks because I worry about forgetting. The second I get complacent about remembering, bam. Six months later I find the bottle and think ‘oh, yeah, vitamins!’ and the cycle starts anew.

Speaking of which, I think I have some vitamins in the fridge, and I haven’t taken any in a while… and my mouth is starting to hurt…

Okay, I’m back and envitaminated. And in case you didn’t know this useful thing, if you get sore and sensitive gums and chocolate suddenly starts to sting your tongue, especially when you’re stressed? It’s a sign of zinc deficiency, something you tend to burn through faster under stress. Take a couple of zinc tablets for two-three days and it’ll go away.

Now, I am off to sort out passport paperwork and visit the physiotherapist to get a letter outlining my history with the practice and other annoying grown-up activities.

So I Forgot Again

I forgot to post again. I’m sorry!

I forgot a lot of things yesterday, number one being ‘drink coffee’. Once I’ve failed at coffee, a lot of other things get forgotten – and in short order, since I left the house early yesterday.

If you have a bad memory, a good routine makes life a lot easier. Get up, shower, drink coffee, sit at computer, write blog, have breakfast – if you do it all in the right order, nothing gets forgotten. But if you think ‘hm, I’ll be busy tomorrow – I’ll shower tonight to save time in the morning’… well. It seemed like a good idea at the time. (I didn’t get breakfast either)

That’s the blessing and curse of a good routine – it keeps me from leaving the house without brushing my teeth or picking up my phone, but I have to do all the steps every time or it doesn’t work and I forget things and wind up missing the train. On one memorable occasion I wound up at the station with 1) no wallet, 2) no phone, and 3) the book I’d already finished, not the one I’d just started.

Routines are good. But don’t mess with them in the name of efficiency! It never ends well!

Time Management

I love playing time-management games. Getting everything ordered just so, figuring out the ‘right’ order of actions to beat the timer and win the gold star. So why is it so hard for me to organize my time in real life? Is it the lack of simple, defined parameters, or just the dearth of gold stars?

It doesn’t help that I am forgetful on an Olympic level. I forget the names of family. Of friends. Of pets. I forget things I was going to do, things I was going to buy, and things I said just a minute ago. I have on two occasions genuinely forgotten my own name, at least for a minute. I am the reigning champion of ‘wait, why did I get up?’ and the record-holder for ‘…. I came in here looking for something‘. So perhaps it’s not surprising how frequently I forget that I’m trying to change my routines to get more writing/cooking/sleeping done.

But it’s frustrating, because this is something I *want* to do. Something that’s really important to me. So I have to wonder if this is genuine forgetting, or self-sabotage. Am I just putting it off because I’m afraid of not succeeding? Because as long as a finished manuscript is a dream not a reality, I don’t have to embark on the serial-rejection stage of the relationship? I won’t lie, I’m dreading that part. I’ve been known to weep over a scathing review of a piece of fan-fiction. Being spurned by agent after agent is going to leave me a wreck, I’m fully aware of that. But I have to go through that to reach the Spawning Ground of Publication, so putting it off isn’t helping.

Maybe I should start giving myself gold stars for goals achieved. I could put up a chart on the fridge, and try to reach ‘novelist’ in the shortest amount of time with as many gold stars as possible. It’s worth a shot, right?