Wednesday, November 01, 2017

It's NaNoWriMo!

Many of you are embarking on a new novel for National Novel Writing Month. Good luck, and don't query on 12/1!

I thought today might be a good day to share an example of character revealed versus character described. The example is from the New York Times Metropolitan Diary (10/30/17)


Dear Diary:
I did my laundry on Sunday night like I always do.
I timed the dryer perfectly so that I was there then buzzer went off. As I emptied my warm, fresh-scented clothes out of several machines, I saw that one dryer was empty and that my fluffy, pale-blue bath mat was gone.
Who would steal a bath mat? How brazen. I could have walked in at any second. And where do you report such a theft? The police have much bigger matters to deal with.
I called the super and told him what had happened. He seemed convinced that I had misplaced the bathmat.
"I will see what I can do," he said.
I went to the store and bought a new bath mat, but as I passed my neighbors in the lobby I began to wonder which one was the laundry thief? What would they take next?
A few days later, my buzzer rang. He was standing at the door holding my bath mat.
"I watched 24 hours of the laundry-room security tape and found out who took your bath mat," he said. "I went to his apartment and got it back for you."
"Thank you so much," I said. "Can you tell me who took it?"
"I prefer not to say" the super said, "but the tenant claims it was an accident."
I fought back laughter. How does one open a dryer that they are not using and accidentally take someone else's bath mat?
I took the bath mat and returned immediately to the laundry room to wash it. After all, who knows what happened to it while it was gone."



(I think a better question is why you didn't hand your super a $20 bill for service above and beyond the call of duty. 24 hours of security tape? For a bath mat?)

Now you could certainly describe this person in a variety of ways "no life, skinflint, entitled" but this story illuminates all those things perfectly and with subtlety.

In other words, this is the kind of writing that entices me.

In case you are wondering.

54 comments:

CynthiaMc said...

I love this.

I did Nano the first year we moved into this house. We had a grand Halloween that year - graveyard, fog machines, tiki torches. The entire family (including the animals and our kids' friends) dressed up. I was still in my vampire cape, long black wig, and fangs when I started working just after midnight on The Civilized Vampyre, which I still love.

This year I decided to do it again.

This past weekend I was cast in a show.

So I'm working a full-time day job, learning a ton of lines for a show that opens the first week of December, and writing one of the many books I've had in my head but couldn't figure out how to do it.

Nano is my playground. I'm going to hang upside down on my mental monkeybars and see what happens.

Let's rock!

AJ Blythe said...

Stumbled over 12/1 (was thinking that must be when you are taking holidays, JR), until I remembered you guys write dates backwards.

Love the example. Not sure I'll ever write so cleverly though.

kathy joyce said...

Good luck nanos! Not me this year. I need a nanoedmo-national novel editing month. But I am making a commitment to writing *every* day, which has kind of fallen off for me the past few weeks. Happy to provide support, encouragement, or a kick in the pants to anyone who needs it.

Glad our New Yorkers are all okay. These past few months have tried our souls. (Mine anyway.)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I am not officially doing NaNo this year. Beta readers are getting back to me and I have substantial re-evaluation and revision to do.

And there is still the matter of that query...

I will be working on new material as well. I always am, but I do think my current book is the way in. Fantasy is a tough road. Trying to apply the iceberg principle without confusing or boring my readers.

Good luck to everyone doing #Nanowrimo - my current WIP was drafted in last year’s event.

Colin Smith said...

Kathy: I do believe NaNoEdMo is a real thing. December, maybe? You can look it up.

How about all the Reiders, commenters and lurkers alike, who are doing NaNo this year share their NaNo names so we can "buddy" each other? I'm cds. You? :)

MA Hudson said...

Is this fiction or non-fiction? Fictional non-fiction maybe? It’s so well written for what’s essentially a letter of complaint. It could so easily have been a tedious whinge fest but it had my full attention the whole way through.

William Plante said...

Excellent, Informative, Thank You.

Kitty said...

So, the super took matters into his own hands and watched 24 hours of laundry room security tape to catch the bath mat bandit. Hmmm, I think that super has the hots for her.

Timothy Lowe said...

I'm always wondering. Neat post.

As for NaNo, good luck to everyone participating. My schedule is so erratic I have to find time at different times. Halloween with 2 little kids was fun, but it caused an inevitable delay in the WIP. Some things I have to let go. NaNo, unfortunately, is one of them.

CynthiaMc said...

Hey Colin (and other Nano critters) I'm CynthiaMc there too.

Dena Pawling said...


So the super was wrong and s/he was right and had NOT misplaced it. Vindicated!

Good luck to all the nano folks. Life is crazy for me this year, so I'll be one rooting for you from the sidelines. I did nano 3-4 years ago and got to 35k. Last I checked, copy/paste the first 15k to the end of the story to make the 50k wasn't allowed LOL



Steve Stubbs said...

He watched 24 hours of security tape, eh? I always wondered what supers did all day.

It's getting to where apartment dwellers can't even commit a crime anymore.

I am having a lexicon problem. I was up all night last night trying to figure out whether I am loquacious or vociferous.

I finally decided I am just mouthy.

Does anyone else have problems like that or is it just I?

(Notice I did not say "is it just me.")

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I've never felt the pull to participate in NaNo. All the best to everyone who is...

Lisa Bodenheim said...

No official NaNo for me. My novel is with beta readers. But I decided to write a non-fiction. I have bits from 2012 and from 2014 that gave me ideas. But no 50,000 word goal, just write every day, whether a little or a lot.

And yesterday, I lunched with a colleague who also writes so we decided to be accountability partners! Now I'm doubly excited.

E.M. I'm with you. Some beta reads are coming back and, whewboy, do I have some revisioning to do. And that iceberg principle? My chapter 1 is not there yet.

Good luck to all the NaNos out there.

roadkills-r-us said...

Immediate reaction: Did it get stolen again?
Secondary reaction: Did you stay with it this time?
Tertiary reaction: What's really going on with the super? Kitty may be right!
- Cynthia: I love that you are doing All The Things. I know the feeling, and it's worth it. Congrats on getting cast! Are you a vampire? 8^)
- I have no plans to enter NaNoWriMo. I just finished the last round of edits on book 3. I usually write my first draft in about a month, but the current schedule puts that in February or March. I kind of want to jump on book 4, but there are things that have piled up that need doing.

Jill Warner said...

I'm Jill Warner (from IA).

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

WOOO NANOWRIMO TIME!

I'm writing book 3 of my werewolf trilogy.
And finishing a short story for a November 15 anthology open call deadline.

No, they have nothing to do with one another, why do you ask?

No, I haven't outlined either project.

No, I don't know how the short story is actually going to go (opposite of my usual direction, to be sure. It's supposed to be optimistic.

Yes, I'm at my day job right now.

'Scuse me, I need more coffee...

Jill Warner said...

Oh dear... I believe I'm a no-life skinflint who's entitled since I totally sided with the narrator. But then again, I would have just thought I was going crazy as I folded all my laundry looking for the mat.

Amy Johnson said...

The super doesn't want any trouble, and he didn't look at the security tape. He's covering for his thieving wife. ;)

RosannaM said...

I did participate in the NaNo a few years ago and found it a valuable learning exercise.

That said, it may be a one and done kind of deal for me. The WIP I am struggling with right now is the result of that NaNo and it seems writing faster/more leaves plot holes and character inconsistencies that are frustrating the heck out of me now.

I knew it at the time, and just told myself keep going, you can fix it in the rewrite. Uh, huh. Sure. Best of luck to those of you opting in. The goal setting alone makes it worthwhile.

So who knew that a story about a missing bath mat (blue) could be entertaining?

CynthiaMc said...

Roadkills-r-us - I'm doing Christmas Belles. It's my favorite Christmas show (modern). I was at a different theatre who did the entire trilogy (Dearly Beloved, Christmas Belles, Southern Hospitality). There I was the oldest sister, Honey Raye (wayward gospel singer with 5 ex-husbands). This time I'm playing Frankie, the youngest sister, who is expecting twins. Lots of fun.

Craig F said...

I cleaned the lint filter after drying the blue bathroom mat. Among the cat hairs was a camera. It was even smaller and more discreet than the one I used to blackmail the Duchess.

I had to wonder if the Super planted it or if it was the mysterious rug thief. Digging further into the lint I saw a small, fake ruby. It was very, very similar to the kind that the slithery one puts in her hair.

Next...

Botanist said...

I agree that the writing is superb, and the story engaging. However for me this perfectly illustrates the pitfalls of "showing" without occasional judicious "telling".

I get a strong sense of the character here, at least in glimpses which I know isn't the whole picture, but I don't get any sense of any of the words you say it illuminates perfectly. I can see how you could get "no life", and maybe "skinflint" but those don't come across convincingly to me, and I have no idea where "entitled" comes into it. We could pick over the nuances endlessly, but that defeats the object. If it was so unambiguously clear, we wouldn't have to.

The point is, that the way a character is revealed (as opposed to described) is often open to interpretation on the part of the reader. In this case, there are as many different ways of reading this as there are readers. If it's important for the reader to "get" a particular aspect of the character, then that has to be conveyed far more carefully.

Andrea St. Amand said...

Fantastic! Thank you for sharing! Hope everyone had a ghoulishly fabulous Halloween and are now inspired to get writing.

Claire Bobrow said...

Kitty :-) Perhaps the super took it, so he could "investigate." Love in the Laundry...
Good luck NaNoWriMo-ers!

Beth Carpenter said...

Who took the bath mat? Why? How will she find out and what will it lead to? You can't leave me hanging like this.

Karen McCoy said...

Kathy Joyce: I am using Nano to do just that--whip my projects into shape.

Great example of character, too--something I constantly strive to work on.

Gayle said...

I love NaNoWriMo! I've done it every year since 2008, except 2012. I was trying to edit that year, but I ended up not getting that much done and felt like my life was incomplete. So even though I'm toward the end of the polishing process on a WIP, I'm going to switch gears and concentrate on something new and give that one a little break and come back fresh to it either later in November or December (depending on how my NaNo novel is going.)

I always have to plan or I wouldn't get through it. Last year I was conservative (for myself) and went for the standard 50k. This year, since my new novel is sure to be a monster, I'm hoping to get closer to 80k done. But that's a lot and with my tv addiction always ready to rear its ugly head and distract me. We'll have to see how it goes.

Good luck to all the other Wrimos. My ID is dont_look_back if anyone wants to buddy up.

Joseph Snoe said...

I liked the laundry story except

1. In the sixth paragraph I would have said "The super" instead of "He"in the second sentence.

2.The super only had to watch the security tape for the the time the Diary Writer was using the dryer.

Otherwise, a nice vignette.

Joseph Snoe said...

Steve Stubbs

I would have said "or is it just me?" Recognizing "is it just I" is grammatically correct, it sounds wrong to I (uh, me).

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Colin,

I'm Nanoing this year. Goodluck to us!

Colin Smith said...

Yay Cecilia!!! You wanna be my buddy? :D I'm cds. The buddy offer is open to all NaNoing Reiders, BTW.

Kathy Joyce said...

OMG!!!! Totally off topic, but... I always use my phone to check in with y'all. I get nothing on the feed except the posts and comments. But, my phone updated its operating system and now doesn't work. (No, you're not having deja vu. I also wrote about this last week when the same thing happened to my laptop.) Anyway, I'm checking in from the web. I had no idea there was such cool stuff on the rest of the blog!! The carkoon Pinterest place is awesome - the Carkoon food - OMG! So fun!

John Davis Frain said...

Botanist, I like your viewpoint, although I don't agree with it entirely.

My "entitled" might be your "sanctimonious" but we'd view a person in real-life through the same lens. Therefore, if I simply tell you this apartment-dweller is "entitled," you'll get a different picture than if I let you meet her.

Perhaps "perfectly" was over-reaching in the explanation, but this did a wonderful job illustrating a character for the reader. There are clues throughout, starting with the fact that she's writing this in her diary. (Which, it turns out, is why she doesn't realize the super is the one who took her bath mat to begin with. And he has no interest in her.)

What a terrific way to start Day One of Nano.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...


Hey Colin,

Yep, fer sure. User name is Cecilia

I will need to review the mechanics as this is my first rodeo.

So, how do we do this buddy thing?

John Davis Frain said...

Thanks for asking this, Cecilia:

"So, how do we do this buddy thing?"

I'm so under-the-radar nano, I don't even have a screen name. I'm afraid if I go to the nano site, it's one more place to sap my time. Help me out--is it really worth it?

Update: Yes, I do have a screen name. frainstorm. I'll hunt for buddies, but not until I've got 2,000 words in for the day. See y'all later tonight!

Lennon Faris said...

This sounds exactly like my college roommate. Even from the first sentence. Kind of irritating sometimes, but predictable and not a bad roommate if you're also not a partier.

Good news for her: she loosened up a little when she met her (now husband) who got her into bluegrass music.

Good luck, all you NaNo's!

Kate Larkindale said...

The reasons public or shared laundry rooms give me hives... What if it wasn't a bathmat but underwear?

Good luck to all out NaNo participants. I'm (foolishly) attempting it again this year, so if you want to buddy, I'm Vampyr14.

Rena McClure Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin Smith said...

Cecilia: Go to your NaNo home page. On the top right there's a search button. Click it. Search by author. Type in the name you're looking for. You should get a list of matches. Select One. You will see an option on their profile page to add as a buddy. They will be notified and can buddy you back.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Colin,

Right-o! Thanks.

Will do it when I get home tonight. My boss would flip if she sees I'm on the Nanowrimo website when she'd already given me the side eye everytime she glimpses swaths of tangerine on my monitor.

The thing is, my muse loves cavorting when I'm at work. But I had it all figured out. I will embed the Nano words in a contract template so I won't have to jump up every time my boss or a co-worker sidles up beside me.

I'm a bad employee. Yes, I am :)

Colin Smith said...

Cecilia: Just make sure you remove the NaNo words before you send the contract... 8-O

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...


Colin,

The controband are filed in my local. I'm just praying IT won't make a full sweep. I'm not ready to be fired for my art.

Megan V said...

I use wrimo as Edmo. It's a great way to stay on track with revisions. I edit as I write. Usually write 2 or 3 chapters , edit, then move on. Then when "finished" it goes through a revision process. NaNo is perfect time for me because I usually have had time to let the wip simmer while working on other projects. And that way I can let it sit again after nano without getting antsy to query by using holidays and all the people sending unrevised first drafts as an excuse

Cecelia that is absolutely devious :)

Theresa said...

I loved this story!

NaNo always reminds me of Mork. Good luck to everyone who has embarked on the writing marathon.

Timothy Lowe said...

This is completely OT, so give me a side-eyed look of ire if you need to.

I am reading The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, which I'm sure many of you have read. It is sublime. In it, Louis Armstrong is credited with saying "It took me a lifetime to learn the notes NOT to play."

It has taken me 500,000 words to figure out that the same concept applies to writing.

If you haven't read Frankie, do it soon. I am 2/3 of the way through. I just told the story to my daughter who was scribbling out a book of her own (she's 8). My son, who is married to the Flash (Netflix), looked over from the TV and said, "what are you talking about, Dad?"

If it can drag a 5th grader from the Flash, it's worth reading.

BJ Muntain said...

I believe I did NaNo the first year it occurred. But November is a bad month for me - it's always busy, and I'm usually getting into revisions after learning lots at Surrey. Not this year, but I'm moving this month, from a home I've lived in for 20 years. I think it's going to be a very busy time.

Lots of people find NaNo very helpful. I just find it the wrong time of year for me.

AJ Blythe said...

BJ, I've tried NaNo twice and now just accept it is always a bad time for me (hard when the days are warming and getting longer and school year finishing up in a few weeks).

Best of luck to everyone participating in NaNo.

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

"Nano, nano, greetings from Ork." That's my extent of Nano. Hooray for Google.

The Bath Mat - Maybe it held special meaning to her and that's why she was so bothered. Although, admittedly, I don't like it when anything is snatched, including a bathroom rug.

Sherry Howard said...

I swore I wouldn't do Nano this yes. I CANT HELP MYSELF. I'm SherLHoward. I usually wrote for kids. Going for a women's fiction. Just for practice. And I'm usually a plotter. Gonna pants this sucker!

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

I am simply hkneale and I welcome NaNo buddies.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Cecilia, when the muse expresses jealousy toward the day job, I open an email window and post her ramblings to my home address.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

BJ, they also do a Camp NaNoWriMo during a different part of the year for those for whom November is a bad time.