Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Musings: My characters have a life of their own

This NaNoWriMo, I'm noticing the same phenomenon I noticed during last year's NaNoWriMo: my vision for what the story would look like and the way the story began to take shape aren't necessarily the same thing.  This is something I think most writers can identify with.  Usually, I don't consciously realize a story would work better if I did it a bit differently.  For me, it tends to be more unconscious.  I'll write something, read it, and think, "Oh, that does make more sense, doesn't it?"

I think a big part of my anxiety over this project comes from the fact that The Eye of the Beholder has been a lot more successful than I'd imagined it would be.  I'm thrilled I've found an audience, and I am very grateful for my readers.  However, I'm also aware that having this audience may lead to expectations.  When I wrote just for myself without ever knowing if anyone else would really read it, I didn't worry too much about the turns my stories took.  I just let my characters do their thing while taking me along for the ride.  But now I'm afraid that if I deviate a lot from the style I used in The Eye, I may let my readers down.

I didn't feel this same level of anxiety with Contributor or with Phoning It In, because they were different.  I'm interested in a lot of genres, and I knew some of my readers might like one genre in which I write but not another, and that's perfectly understandable.  It also frees me from having to worry about expectations, because I've already set up the expectation that what's coming is going to be different from what's already out there.

However, Asleep is meant to be my second in the Fairytale Collection, and it's shaping up to be a different book from The EyeThe Eye was my take, but it was still pretty much a straight up retelling of the beauty and the beast story.  My inspiration for Asleep is the sleeping beauty story, but the tale I'm telling is far, far different from the Disney version.  There are elements I've straight up left out--the fairies--and elements that I've inverted--the princess being the rescuer while the prince is the rescuee.  So, while Asleep is also inspired by a fairytale, it doesn't stick as closely to the fairytale as The Eye did.

The major difference between this year and last is this: I'm having trouble letting go.  When Contributor started to turn out a lot differently than I'd anticipated, I went with it and was happy with the result.  I'm more nervous about Asleep because I've got something out there for it to be measured against.  At the end of the day, I need to be faithful to the characters and the way the story wants to progress.  I think any writer will say that if you fight this and try to make the story fit your original vision, the end result will be something that's not worth reading.

I'm gaining a new perspective on being an author with at least one published book.  When I first plunged into the world of publishing, I worried what my readers would think when they compared my work to that of other authors.  Now, I worry more about what my readers will think when they compare my previous novels to my newer ones.