Lake Erie

How Blaine Hancock Saved My Novel

NOTE: If you’re read­ing my novel and don’t want any details sur­prised, then you should come back to this post after you read chap­ter eight. This arti­cle con­tains spoil­ers.

Ten days into NaNoW­riMo 2014, I wrote:

By any def­i­n­i­tion, I had writ­ten a lot. I’d been keep­ing pace with my daily word counts and had a lot to show for it. Chap­ter seven closed with both main char­ac­ters hav­ing just expe­ri­enced major life events. I needed a rest, and they needed time to grow up.

I pin­wheeled, try­ing to decide what to do, where to go, how to con­tinue. That evening I did not write. Hop­ing to main­tain some momen­tum, I rearranged char­ac­ter sheets in Scrivener. I hacked a book cover in Pix­el­ma­tor. I stalled for time, then I had to go to bed.

The next day, I faced the same issue. It hadn’t dis­ap­peared overnight. Per­haps a new char­ac­ter was nec­es­sary, some­one who would play an impor­tant role later. Maybe an FBI agent inves­ti­gates the bridge col­lapse. Maybe a shad­owy head of state or busi­ness tycoon barks orders to a known sec­ondary char­ac­ter. Maybe a small child plays with dolls in a green­house, ratio­nal­ized later.

No inspi­ra­tion hit me, but I had to keep writ­ing, so I did some­thing scary. I opened the name gen­er­a­tor and cre­ated Mike, Janelle and Blaine Han­cock. I cre­ated “Ch 8, Part 1″ and started to write, hav­ing no idea who these peo­ple were.

Janelle is preg­nant and nearly full-term. She’s com­plain­ing about how cer­tain she is that her water broke, despite the repeated assur­ances by med­ical staff that it hasn’t. Respond­ing to a nurse’s indel­i­cate sug­ges­tion, Janelle says, “I didn’t piss myself. My water broke.”

Then I real­ized what I was doing. After I got stuck, a part of my brain must have started work­ing on the prob­lem. The more con­scious part of my brain was so over­whelmed and neg­a­tive that it couldn’t hear what the other part was com­ing up with.

I had a guy nick­named Flame who har­nessed uncon­trol­lable fire. I had a woman nick­named Frost who may (or may not) have power over cold. And now I had Blaine Han­cock, the ris­ing tide of Flood.

What’s amaz­ing to me is that I had this solu­tion in my head, but it wasn’t until I turned off my think­ing and started to write that I dis­cov­ered it. I had to get quiet enough to hear my story.

I fin­ished chap­ter eight, and I cer­tainly have enough mate­r­ial for three more chap­ters intro­duc­ing this (and another) new char­ac­ter. Then I have some ques­tions to deal with: why do they all have these pow­ers, what do they mean to each other, and what is their over­all purpose?

Uneasy ques­tions that I’m sure I’m work­ing on now. But that’s another story.