NaNoWriMo2021 by Ben Collier

photo by currens on pixabay

Anticipation can be a powerful tool

The more I look at the amount of detail I’ve been putting into it and the amount of story left to go, next to the amount of time left in the month, this easily looks like a project that could go over the 50,000 word count.

I was more nervous until I finally got to the first big action sequence, and then another action sequence the very next day. With those down I seem to be feeling a bit better. (I seem to orient my sense of story progress around the action scenes for some reason.) A couple of mini/teaser action bits had been mixed into the early chapters to give the audience a sense of what’s to come, but the ‘all hell breaks loose’ moment is saved for later. This is a change of pace for me, who likes to both start and end big on action. Anticipation can be a powerful tool though, if I use it correctly.

But the added scenes, plus the larger number of characters to introduce, meant that Act I takes up a bit more space than my first acts normally do, making me feel for a while like I was behind in terms of the percentage of the story left to go. On the other hand, Act II may be shorter than first thought, and I tend to write final acts pretty quick anyway, so I may be (hopefully) still on track.

A lot of characters are going to die!

Writing a zombie story has a very different feel to it as well, once I researched the genre. (Spoiler alert – a lot of characters are going to die.) One aspect of this is that it requires writing more characters into the story, just so that I’m not running out of characters too fast. As a result, coming up with characters for this story had a very different feel to it. Normally when inventing characters I like to think about their potential in the story, what they may get up to in a sequel, romantic interests – all that exciting and optimistic stuff. For this story, almost every time I invented a character my first thought was “How do I want them to die?” And then I added backstory and personality to them just so that their ends are more tragic. A very different approach than what I’m used to! It’s also the reason I opted not to have pets in this story. Have you been watching The Walking Dead? Pets don’t have a good track record in zombie stories.

As I’ve been doing character inspiration intake, one of the characters I’ve roleplayed as the most in video games is, yep, already dead, barely a third of the way into NaNo. Not that I’m crying about it or anything…

What about you guys? With the project you’re doing now, have you had to make any changes to how you normally approach your stories? Have you had to learn any new techniques this year? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you ~ Ben