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.