When the Story Slows Down

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Welcome
* When the Story Slows Down
* I Talk to My Characters
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“Any real commitment to doing things different, whether adding new behaviors and subtracting old habits, requires a transformation of inner vision.” Matt Perryman in Meaningful Particularshttps://mattpmn.substack.com/

“Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it.” Salvador Dalí


Welcome to Max C and any other new readers or subscribers of the Journal. I hope you will find it useful.

Get the Archives and other free downloads at the Journal website. Just click the links and a PDF will download in a new page.

I also recommend reading the posts “I Believe in You” and “Fear”. Can’t hurt, and it might help.

When the Story Slows Down

Most of the time I’m writing along just fine. The story’s running, the characters are running, and I’m running with them. Those are the best moments. The most fun and exhilarating moments.

But sometimes the story coughs, slows, and chugs to a stop.

That tells me the critical mind has slipped in quietly while I was enjoying the story.

When that happens, the instant I recognize it, I stop too. Then I sit back in my chair and consult with my my characters:

  • Did I try to take you someplace you didn’t want to go?
  • Did I try to make you do something you didn’t want to do?
  • Did I add description of something you didn’t see, hear, smell, taste or feel?
  • Did I poke my nose into the story?
  • What happened?

Then I go back a scene or a chapter or so and start reading. I’m not ‘looking for’ anything. I’m reading for pleasure. As I do I allow my fingers to lay on the keyboard just in case the characters need them.

And they do. Every time.

And every single time, I come to a place as I’m reading where the characters say something different or do something different or go off in a different direction or or or.

And just like that, the story’s flowing again, running again, and pulling me along with it. I don’t even know when the cycling session ends. We race right through it.

I’m not talking about writing non-stop action here. I’m not talking about the story slowing while the POV character’s between jobs and just living her life.

Even in my Blackwell Ops and other thrillers, the characters are just like you and me.

They lead normal lives, enjoy time off between jobs, meet and discuss things with other people. They eat breakfast, lunch (or dinner) and supper, read books, go to films, swim, put up with people they don’t like, shop for groceries or other items, etc.

Those are not high-action times, but they are authentic times in the life of the character, so they blend into the rest of the story—those high-action times—perfectly. The “normal life” parts of the book allow the reader a breather between the high-action or high-tension times, but it’s a breather that’s interesting.

And again, it’s interesting because it’s authentic. It’s what the character is actually doing at the moment, or what is happening to the character and how s/he is responding or reacting.

My characters laugh, cry, experience physical and emotional upswings and downturns, are excited or frightened or elated or terrified, worried, testy, frustrated or flustered, and all the other emotions you and I and everyone we know experience.

The key to recording all of that is to keep it authentic. Which means trust the characters and write what they give you. Write the life they’re actually living.

Don’t make stuff up. I guarantee, you cannot make up a story that’s as interesting as the one the characters are living and conveying to you.

The moment your critical mind slips something into the story, the writing will slow. And it won’t pick up again until you figure out what you did and/or recommit to the characters so they can fix it. And ONLY they can fix it, because only they know what actually happened. It’s their story. They’re living it

Of course, you may disagree if you want to. I’m certainly not the General Manager of the Universe over you anymore than I’m the GMU over my characters.

But even if you disagree, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. It only means you’d rather place your trust in outlining, plotting, revising, critique groups, and rewriting instead of simply recording the story the characters are actually living. The story they’re trying to hand you on a silver platter, no strings attached.

But of course, if that’s the way you want to go, that’s perfectly fine. Hey, it’s your life.

I Talk to My Characters

As I did at the bullet points above, I actually talk to my characters sometimes, and they talk to me. And I don’t only mean through the keyboard.

For the current novel, Soleada Garcia popped into my head a few days ago. She crossed her arms over her chest, and frowned. “Aren’t you going to tell them why I stopped swimming?” (She has trouble pronouncing “aren’t.” She said it in two distinct syllables. She doesn’t usually use contractions when she speaks.)

I said, “Sure, okay.” And the next day I started the novel in which she will explain (eventually) why she stopped swimming and reveal why that’s important. Because I trust her.

As for why she stopped swimming, frankly I have no idea. I didn’t even know she HAD stopped swimming. I guess I’ll find out as the novel unfolds, which is exactly as it should be.

By the way, on day 2 of writing the novel (yesterday), the subtitle came to me: Trying Times.

Again, I have no idea why or where it came from (other than Soleada herself). I can only presume the “trying times” are what led her to stop swimming. But again, I won’t know until she finally reveals-all as the novel unfolds.

I’m just tickled I’m the lucky guy she chose to write it for her.

Anyway, all of that was only a few days after she popped in to say she wasn’t going to tell me any more stories. I reported that in the Journal too, and I wrote that “probably” if I heard from her again, she would convey a story from the time after she and Charlie Task met.

Apparently she changed her mind. And of course, she has that right.

For my part, I am thrilled. She is the most exciting POV character in the Blackwell Ops series. And that even includes Charlie Task himself, although that isn’t really a valid comparison. Charlie is definitely a nut from a different kind of tree.

Though people do change…. But I don’t want to give away anything.

I just wanted to share all that. As always, do what you will with the information.

I’ll talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

This Thing Isn’t Entirely Under My Control Check out the comments too. Thanks to Tiffanie for the tip.

The State of the Newsletter 2024 edition “In which I lay out a modest agenda for the coming year”

A new book looks at the past and future of copyright

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1200

Writing of Blackwell Ops 19: Soleada Garcia: Trying Times

Day 1…… 4398 words. To date…… 4398
Day 2…… 4889 words. To date…… 9287

Fiction for January……………………. 89498
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 89498
Fiction since October 1…………… 392553
Nonfiction for January……………… 24710
Nonfiction for 2024…………………… 24710
2024 consumable words…………… 114208

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 2
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 84
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)…… 239
Short story collections…………………… 31

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Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.