Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.


A few weeks ago, I announced that I was taking on writer Theodora Goss's challenge to write a Y.A. novel over the course of the summer. I've gotten a little bit of a late start because I was finishing up work on a Massive Mysterious Project, to be revealed here at a later date. But earlier this week, I started on the novel challenge in earnest. I've added a tab to the top of my blog, where you can see my word count and how far I still have to go to meet my summer goal. (I don't know why, but I find graphs of my progress really motivating. I suspect this may be evidence that I'm a really dull person at heart. Or maybe just a Virgo. It's certainly one of the things I've liked best about NaNoWriMo when I've taken part.)

Anyway, I thought I'd use my updates to talk about what I'm discovering about myself as a writer during this process. There are some things all writers have in common, but we also have our weird quirks and hangups. What works for one person doesn't always work for another. Part of becoming a writer is figuring out how you operate, what motivates you, and what will stop you cold, staring at a blinking cursor.

Earlier this week, I ran into the Romantic Interest wall. The main character of my novel is a girl (hey, write what you know, right?), and while it isn't the entire point of the story, she's going to have a romantic interest mixed into her adventures. I reached the point in the story where she meets him for the very first time and. . . stopped. This guy was a blank spot in my head. I kind of knew what I wanted him to BE like, but I had not idea how I wanted him to look. Here is the point where I confess that most of the men in my stories are based on my husband to some degree or another. Sure, he may have a different haircut, or maybe some tattoos, but there's always some aspect of him in there.

Totally understandable, right?
As I was staring at my screen, this suddenly became clear to me. Oh my god, are all of my male characters going to look the same? Are they all going to have dark hair and really sexy shoulders? (Sorry, honey.) I started desperately trying to think of other inspirations for this character's physical appearance. But Daniel Craig aside, my taste in men tends to be. . . ahem, more based on personality and charisma than conventional attractiveness (see here and here).

So what did I do? I made it dark. She's going to meet him eventually and get a better look at him, but for now, I'm at the very beginning of the story. I can't let myself lose momentum or start agonizing over how one particular character is going to look when he eventually surfaces, or else this story is going to stall out before the end of the first chapter. I can give myself time to figure out how this guy is going to look -- probably he's going to have adorably messy hair (again, sorry, honey) -- and still keep the story moving. I can work with my romantic interest handicap rather than fighting it.

Come back soon for more startling revelations about my brain on literature!

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