Lightbulb moments for characters

Two-hour break from work, check. Coffee and bagel, check. Favorite table at the coffeeshop, check. iPad,… Oops. No iPad. OK, notebook, check. Pen,… No pen either. Great.

That’s basically how yesterday’s writing session started out, following a frustrating morning at work. Fortunately, being a regular at the coffeeshop means they were willing to let me borrow a pen for a couple of hours. So I settled down with my notebook and what was supposed to be a novella outline.

Originally, I planned to finishing drafting the third chapter, but my handwriting is atrocious. So rather than scribble out a couple of pages that I’d need to transcribe later, I started making character notes, pulling plot threads together for the book. After half a page, I started working on the HWYS moment, which is my North Star for every story. I had a rough idea for one, but it felt like it could be better. Some pulling here and poking there… After about 15 minutes, the pieces clicked and I could see the scene start to unfold in my head. It just felt right, and there was a stupid grin on my face as I started running the entire story through the filter of building to that one moment.

It changes some things, definitely. It might even turn this into a true novel rather than a novella. But the threads throughout are more tightly woven, and the story suddenly goes from just a story about two boys who stumble on a mob burial ground in their small town to something much deeper, more complex. And it totally hoses my my plan to have the book out on Halloween, but I’m OK with that. It’s going to be a good book, maybe even a great book.

I drafted the HWYS moment last night, just roughly. It’s going to need a rewrite when I catch back up to it, but it helps having it there. Seeing the characters interact at the key moment, knowing how they got there and what needs to happen earlier for that scene to work the way it’s supposed to — that drives my storytelling.

The iPad’s going with me today, and I’m putting more pens in my backpack. But the notebook’s coming out again this weekend as I dig more deeply into the story. These characters won’t ever be the same after this…