Sometimes you wonder what you’ve let yourself in for. The first time I signed up to do a 10k run was one of those, ten kilometres in one go? On the first training run I managed five hundred metres before I had to stop. The first time I signed up for NaNoWriMo was another, fifty thousand words in one month? Seriously?
I managed to do the ten kilometre run, and even managed a time that wasn’t too horrendously bad. I didn’t manage NaNoWriMo the first time though, work got in the way sending me off to a conference. I’ve entered the Manchester 10k every year since though, and last year I was able to clear time and do NaNoWriMo, and managed just shy of fifty-five thousand words. These were two things that I’ve signed up for and then thought “What have I just done?!” Hopefully this latest one will be the same.
The guys who look after the Manchester area of NaNoWrimo must be masochists, because they’ve come up with the idea of doing thirty short stories in the thirty days of April. Apparently a few of them did this last year, and it was good fun, so being the sort who finds it hard to say no to a writing challenge, I’ve agreed to join in.
It doesn’t sound too difficult; stories only have to be over two hundred words. This ramble is already over that. But think again, thirty different short stories. Thirty. Take a moment to just try and jot down as many different short story ideas as you can. I tried, I came up with two. Thankfully I’ve still got another month to come up with a few more ideas, and with several book ideas on the go I’ve got a whole host of characters that I can write about.
And that’s why I’ve agreed to do this really, to help develop some of the character ideas I’ve got. Whenever you sit down and start writing, no matter how well you’ve planned it (I don’t generally plan) the characters will do something that takes your story off in a different direction (which is why I don’t generally plan). I’ve found though that the more you write about a character, the less they’ll surprise you. They still will, I don’t think it’s ever possible to write a book without a character changing it, or suggesting a change that you deliberately ignore, but there are fewer of them. Knowing the characters better also helps with whatever planning you do actually do. You’re more likely to know how a character will react in advance, you’re better placed to plan out the story lines, the threads and twists and the interactions if you know more about the character.
It’s not just the characters though, there are the situations too. A lot of stuff sounds like a great idea in your head, but when you come to write it down you realise what utter tosh it is. This can really put a crimp into your story if it was a vital part.
So, between now and the start of April I need to think of thirty different short stories involving the characters and situations that run around inside my head, but are able to stand alone on their own two (or sometimes four) feet, and if they’re not too horrendous I’ll put them up in the Short Stories section