Raffa climbed over and lay in front of her, her bare breasts against his back, her legs wrapped around his. He rested his head back on her shoulder. Risha liked how the weight of his body felt, the musky scent of him. She kissed his hair and the side of his face. He looked back and they kissed each other, a taste of the heat they had shared earlier.
Nanowrimo wrapped up tonight with a love scene between Risha and Raffa and their pillow talk afterwards. The love scene taught me a few things as a writer. I’ve written love scenes before, mostly short erotica, but nothing I’ve put into a novel. After spending 48,000 words getting to know how resourceful and tough they are, this gave me a chance to see them relate to each other as lovers and just as human beings rather than heroes.
I learned a few things. I’ve gotten much better at this than my first Nano when I wrote a schlocky fun zombie story called Zombies at the Gates. I even had a better plan then. The quality of the prose was better this time and the overall story development was better, even when I didn’t know what was happening next. It’s because I knew the characters better. In the worst moments, when I had no clue what I would write that night, I was still able to think of the holes in my characters’ guts that I needed to fill. The characters from Zombies felt more like paper dolls in comparison. Risha and Raffa have been in my head for the better part of two years. Long before my first piece for the Nano, I’d written short scenes with them just for fun that helped me get to know who they are.
Confusion is nothing to be afraid of when you’re writing a novel. In fact, it can be one of the most powerful dramatic engines in a story. If you’re like me, you hate living in the in-betweens, when you can’t decide between “less filling” or “tastes great” in your light beer. Fictionally, though, all feelings are fair game, especially the awkward ones that we hate to deal with. Characters have doubts. Not knowing what to do can tear someone apart. Ever heard of a little movie called Casablanca? Ingrid Bergman made film history playing a character who couldn’t make up her mind between two men she loved.
Write in small chunks if you have to. If you don’t know the next scene, write a few paragraphs. If you don’t have a few paragraphs, write one sentence. If you don’t have a sentence, write a bad sentence. You can always make it better later, or if it doesn’t work at all, seeing why it doesn’t fit will give you insight into the direction you should take instead.
Music is powerful inspiration. Four times I wrote scenes where all that I had was the characters, a general idea like “this is where they fall in love” and a song that fit the moment. A good song can help you feel what your characters are feeling when your imagination doesn’t know where to begin. You may not know what the next step is in the plot. That’s okay. Just show the characters talking and interacting with each other in that moment. Plots are what happened, but characters are why we care about what happened. The characters’ actions drive the story. As you become more connected to the characters, you’ll have a better idea what happens next in the plot.
I have a lot of work to do on this story. I need to know these characters and their world much, much better. The final story will be far broader and deeper than it is now. At a minimum, I’ve only written half of the story. It feels more like a third, or even a fourth if some of the layers are deeper than I realized.
But that’s for later.
Tomorrow there will be a glass of champagne and chocolate cake. For now, I’m going to take in the applause!
PS: weird research of the day:
Cigar flavors wheel
Violet promise tattoo
Image credit: 2014 Nanowrimo winner from Nanowrimo.org, used with permission. All the animated gifs in this post are used without permission.