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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Writing, or lack thereof, While Researching a Novel

I'm in the midst of novel research. This consists mostly of reading haunted house stories and the nonficitonal tome the Golden Bough. So far, I've finished Richard Matheson's Hell House, started in on Shirley Jackson's The House on Haunted Hill, as well as the first few chapters of Bough, which doesn't even begin to put a dent in this encyclopedic book.

I haven't restricted my education to books either. I've watched and rewatched Del Toro's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, which is where the inspiration for the book sprouted from in the first place. This past weekend, I took in a Netflix-sponsored viewing of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, as well as innumerable episodes of Ghost Hunters International, which has already filled my head with potential hauting phenomena.

Yes, all of these things are, in my case, legitimate work-related activities. This is one of the reasons I love being a writer, even on the occasions that the act of writing makes me want to hurl my pricey macbook across the living room.

As I accumulate ideas, reading and reading, I have not done much at all of writing. This is to be expected, but it still feels as though I'm not accomplishing anything. By that token, I thought perhaps it might be time to begin some character sketches on those people I know will be occupying my novel. As of yet, I know some aspects about them, but not one yet has a name to call his or her own.

To learn about my characters, I find the exercises focused on characterization in the Fiction Writers Workshop and What If? come in handy as long as I adapt them for the situation at hand rather than using their scenarios verbatim. For literary fiction, the characters are key, because without character, you have no real conflict. That means it's just as vital to research them as it is to research my subject matter.

Additionally here are a few character sketch templates free online:

And for general writerly inspiration when I feel like giving up, Word Work has some sage advice for the weary writer and the importance of avoiding procrastination.

I'm anxious to start putting my fingers to the keys and getting chapters banged out, but I know that nothing salvagable will result until I have a basic plan, not a play-by-pay, mind you. What I do need is a little bit more than I have now, an expert knowledge of the characters, their motivations, backstories, thoughts. I need a deeper foundation of the tropes of the haunted house novel and legends on a certain type of folkloric creature (which I'm hoping the Bough provides), both of which require more reading and notetaking. It might be a while yet before I can really start in on page one.

In the meantime, I'll have to satisfy myself by sketching house blueprints and characters, scenery descriptions and notes on potential plot arcs. It's a matter of slowing down and letting the story come to me.

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