This is the third week of the National Write a Novel in a Month (NANOWRIMO) contest. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. That is an average of 1667 words per day.

And…..I’m behind. 

At one point, this past weekend I was 10,000 words behind. But as of the start of today, I am only 4,000 words behind. I am confident I will be able to catch up. Fingers crossed and the ideas keep flowing. I had originally intended to use NANOWRIMO (have you figured out how to pronounce it yet?) this year to write blog posts and some short stories, and even start to make some headway on a sequel to my current project.

 That is not the way it has gone. 

My very first NANOWRIMO I started a story about a young boy who is adopted. During the course of that story, the family moves to a new town. Even though I don’t actively work on that story, ideas have been percolating. I have decided that it can be a small town series. This past year when I was visiting family in my Northwestern Ontario hometown, I started getting ideas for various inhabitants of this small town. The ideas came, not so much from specific people I met, although, there are a few characters based on childhood friends, but mainly from life and businesses in a small town.

Without any specific focus or outline for this mad month of writing, I have been dropping into organized word sprint events online. Out of some of the prompts that have been given, I’ve had some amazing characters appear. Of the over 30,000 words I have written so far this November, I would say 25,000 are scenes and characters in this small town. It has been rather exciting to meet them all and learn about their stories.

I am not alone in the seemingly sudden appearance of characters in a story, even J.R.R. Tolkien had confessed that about a third of the way through The Fellowship of the Ring, some ruffian named Strider confronted the hobbits in an inn, and Tolkien was in despair. He didn’t know who Strider was, where the book was going, or what to write next. I certainly understand Tolkien’s quandary, I had that happen this week, a character appeared in the borderlands of a specific scene and I am stumped as to what role he is going to play.

Writing is a lot like reading, new characters and situations appear seemingly beyond the writer’s control. Learning to tell their stories well becomes the hardest part of writing. Ideas come from observing life and conversations with friends. Two weekends ago, I was out for a movie with a friend who is considering a career change. He said he was considering getting his pilot’s license. The next day a character appeared in my story based on a prompt, and I had the brain wave to make her a private pilot. That decision change the location of the entire scene and introduced a whole other character. How cool is that?

This should also serve as a warning. If you have a friend who is a writer, beware, something you say or do might just end up in a story one day. 

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