Scolopendra and Tables…

Let me start by apologizing for being a little late posting this, but I attended a 24 hour write-in for NaNoWriMo in Boston this weekend and wanted to blog about that.

“It’s quite alright. To answer what is bound to be your most obvious question, you are in the processing center in Purgatory. My job is to set you up with housing and a job…You have been given unit MI-156404 as housing, Sarah—”

“Sadie,” Sarah interrupted. “I go by Sadie. I’m planning on legally changing my name…” Sarah trailed off, realizing that her plans to change her name at some point were probably moot.

“It’s ok, Sadie, I can make that change to your records here. Consider this a fresh start.”

“I’m sorry to interrupt, Brittany, but I have to know. Is Purgatory a fresh start?”

“Purgatory is what you make of it. I’m sorry, Sadie, I’m really not allowed to give you more of an answer than that.”

This is one of the exchanges in the novel I’m writing this month (where I’m woefully behind on the word count, in case you’re curious). What’s interesting is that this is based on an actual conversation I had at one of the write-ins. The young lady I was sitting next to introduced herself as Sarah but said everyone called her Sadie. She then mentioned that she was even thinking of legally changing her name at some point. This small exchange just fit perfectly into my story: Do we regret the things we don’t get around to doing. When I came up with the line “Consider this a fresh start,” I realized just how perfectly the little exchange fit into the plot and Sadie became the one of the two main character in the novels. Sadie goes by the nickname ‘Scolopendra’ on NaNoWriMo, and because I had already decided to have everyone in Purgatory wearing black, the character in the story now has bright red hair. In case you’re curious, the idea for Sadie’s own novel sounds very interesting and I love the title she came up with, so I’m really looking forward to reading it.

Perhaps it’s just that it seemed like a fun thing to do at the time, but most of the characters in my novel are based in some way on people I’ve met this month. At one of the locations for the write-in this weekend, Tom (the person who did an incredible job organizing the 24-hour event) was moving tables. In the novel he became Thomas, the man with the tables. Brittany, one of the angels in the novel, is based on the talented young lady who is kind enough to host our bi-monthly craft group at her home (my hobby is making teddy bears). Darryl, the other angel, is based on someone who did a hilarious extemporaneous ‘reading’ of some of our query letters at the NH kick-off meeting (I had brought some queries to read to get caught up). The judge in Purgatory will be based on ‘LC’, the young lady who was kind enough both to let me sit with her for the latter part of the event so I wouldn’t be sitting alone and to let me read what she had been writing; to say the scene I read was hysterical would be an understatement, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else she writes. I must also admit to my embarrassment that I kept getting her name wrong (and may have spelled it wrong here); I’m sure a scene like that will make its way into my novel someplace.

I wanted to make two points with this blog. The first is that, as writers, we should always be aware of the ‘little things’ that are going on around us and in the conversations we have. Often these little things are a good way to add depth to both characters and scenes without a lot of back story and to make characters more multi-dimensional and real. The second is that writing does not have to be a ‘solitary art’. Writers groups and events like the NaNoWriMo write-ins are a great way to meet like-minded people, exchange ideas, get feedback, and most of all have fun with your writing. I’ve met some very interesting and talented people this month, and I’m hoping that a few of them will stay in touch after the excitement of NaNo has passed. There’s no reason you shouldn’t not only do what you love but also have fun doing it while hanging out with others who feel the same.

In case you’re curious, yes, I have agreed to read the stories from people I’ve met this month, with the only rule being they need to be polished and edited first. Also you can read Sadie MacMillan’s blog here.

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