Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day 3: Why all writers are crackpots

Have you ever seen an interview or read an   article in which an author talked about their writing as if it's a living, breathing being?  Have you ever heard them speaking of their characters as their children?  Well, they do this because it's true.  As insane as it sounds, anything an author writes really does have a life of its own.  It doesn't matter how meticulously an author plans, or how confident they are with the direction their work will take, it will always end up going off in at least one unexpected direction.

This is precisely what I'm finding with my novel.  I made pretty extensive notes before I started writing, in which I outlined everything from the social structure of the society to the characters to the setting.  I knew where it was going to go and who was going to be in it--or so I thought.  So what has happened?  Well, a totally unplanned for, undreamed of character has not only manifested and asserted her intent to stay, she has also announced herself as a pretty major character.  As usual, I find that I don't own my material, it owns me.  It humors me by letting me think that what I'm writing is my idea but, really, it lacks fingers, so it is reluctantly allowing me to type it out.

A cookie to the first person who correctly guesses this character's name!

*** 

 By the end of the day, Dara was convinced that Andersen either hated her or thought she was completely incompetent—or both.  By the time her shift ended, it was all she could do to smile serenely at him and wish him a good evening.  She wanted nothing more than to run from the room as quickly as she could and dissolve into tears, but she forced herself to walk at a dignified pace, her back straight.

“Dara!” Letizia called, walking up a corridor to Dara’s left.  “How was your first day?”

Her mind cast about frantically for an appropriate response and she finally settled on a bland, “There’s so much to learn.”

Letizia peered at Dara’s face and her expression softened.  “You know, at lunch today I heard Head of Engineering Andersen telling Chen that you’re one of the most promising apprentices he’s ever had.”

“Really?  That’s not the impression he gave me,” Dara said, the words tumbling from her mouth of their own accord.  She was absolutely horrified, and she looked around semi-frantically, afraid that someone else had heard her—as if it wasn’t bad enough that Letizia had heard her.

“Head of Engineering Andersen’s methods are rather...Socratic,” Letizia said quietly.

“They’re what?” Dara asked, confused.  She’d never before heard the word ‘Socratic’ and had no idea what it meant.

She was flabbergasted to see a look of alarm momentarily mar Letizia’s magnificent features, but the other woman quickly recovered and smoothed her expression into a light smile.  “Sorry for the confusion.  I have no idea where that came from; it’s been a long day.  What I meant to say was that he likes to challenge his apprentices, likes to test the flexibility of their minds and the depths of their engineering knowledge.”

Something felt off about Letizia’s dismissal of the term she’d used, but Dara ignored it for the moment, sure she’d stumbled on something important.  “Were you also Head Engineer Andersen’s apprentice?” she asked.

Letizia’s smile widened, and she leaned in close to Dara’s ear.  “Yes, and I survived, so I know you can too,” she whispered.

Dara couldn’t help but smile.  She didn’t know why Letizia was being so kind to her, but she was grateful for it.  Though she’d been very excited to become a contributor, she knew that it could be a very cutthroat world.  It was comforting to think that she might have an ally, though she cautioned herself not to trust too easily.

“Well, that explains it.  I thought he kept questioning me because he thought I was an idiot,” she confessed.

“No, Dara.  Trust me when I say that he was actually quite impressed with you, which is a very good thing.  You want to stay on his good side.”  Letizia’s face was suddenly gravely serious.

They came upon a cluster of people getting ready to funnel through one of the exit doors, rendering Dara unable to ask Letizia what she’d meant by her last comment.  Though she liked the other woman, Dara had to admit that she also found Letizia a bit infuriating.  She had a habit of saying strange things without explanation, and it gave Dara an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.

“It looks like your friend is waiting for you,” Letizia said, pointing toward Jonathan, who was a good three inches taller than most of the other Magnum contributors who were streaming past him.  He caught sight of Dara, and his face lit up.

“Yes.  He’s walking me home tonight.  He and I...”

“Oh, I know,” Letizia said, lightly.  “You and your young man have garnered quite a bit of interest.”

            Though Dara was already aware of this, it made her feel strangely unsettled to hear Letizia say it.  What was it about this woman that made Dara want to be on her guard?  How could she find her so simultaneously likable and troubling?