For the past few days, I’ve been floundering about trying to recall what on earth I did before November, when every minute of free time was dedicated to fiction-writing. Blogging, that rings a bell, but writing about what? And books, I faintly recall the voracious consumption of literature. Music, food, friends…it’s slowly coming back to me. But not quite. As my mind continues to recover from creative inundation, I’ll stick to the simple and familiar.
What makes for a good book? Everyone has different tastes and preferences, everyone has different reasons. I like personally enjoy elevated vocabulary, honesty, and raw emotion. But I believe the biggest draw to a story are its characters and their relatability.
Over the past month or so, I completed the Hunger Games trilogy, which I loved. I haven’t been a fan of young adult fiction since the highly anticipated release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in 2000. I’m not going to touch Harry Potter because I haven’t read any of them in nearly twelve years.
Instead, I wish to talk about the Hunger Games and the characters in my own novel. Katniss Everdeen, the protagonists in dystopian society of Panem, is fiercely and stubbornly independent and everything she does is either a reflection of that or an example of her giving in a bit. Peeta Mellark, a fellow Hunger Games contestant and potential love interest is compassionate and yielding, to the point where you come to expect this type of behavior from him. The persona of the fictional players is established early on and continually developed, the story revolves around and acts in accordance with the drive of the lead characters. The characters are developed into real and predictable, as well as relatable, people. I think an author’s ultimate triumph is reaching a point where the reader understands the characters - their fears, motivation, responses, and hope for the future. Without that, the story holds very little value for the audience.
Although the characters in my NaNoWriMo novel are nowhere near as full and developed as Katniss and Peeta, my idea all along was to build the characters and then toss them into situations to see how they react. Although the plot was scattered and inconsistent, I like to believe that what the characters say and do generally makes sense. The one aspect I was most concerned with in my story was conveying emotion, whether pity for Ainsley or disgust towards Hannah. Although the novel could use a lot of work, I feel like the characters are the biggest redeeming quality and really carried the story.
Several people have suggested I publish my novel, but I’m honestly not too impressed with it. My effort, yes. The product, not so much. I have not reread any of it, but I would estimate about a third is salvageable, content that seem relevant and publishable. But that’s still 15,000-20,000 words, far more than most people have written. And I have decently developed characters, which is a huge accomplishment.