I’ve always loved writing, but this is the first time I’ve ever participated in anything like NaNoWriMo. It’s always been short stories here and there, the odd poem, attempts at novels (but never getting past a few chapters) for me. I usually write when I’m inspired to, which has worked out well in the past, but I’ve decided to take my writing more seriously and develop a more structured approach.
I’m hoping NaNo will really help me with that.
1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
I get ideas from the most random places -memories of summers gone by, crazy sleepovers, dramatic arguments, falling out and making up, best friends and worst enemies, cooking pancakes, talking for hours and hours, singing, laughing, running away on long walks, sharing stories and secrets with friends whilst the sun flickers on my favourite spot by the river. Hiding from the rain, late night games of dreaded ‘truth or dare’, ukuleles strumming under a starry sky. Voices blending together.
Running through the woods in the dark, away from my friends to write poetry under the trees, sitting on the stairs watching music videos and creating artwork. Riding my bike down the road.
This idea just sprang out of nowhere and grew in my head until I was too attached to throw it away.
2. Describe what your novel is about.
*alarm bells* This question has to be every writer’s worst nightmare, right?! Or am I the only one!? *panics*
In answer to this question, I am going to give you my crudely written synopsis which you have full permission to dislike (its horrible, even though it took so many attempts to get right). Here goes:
Fourteen year old Dante has never met his Dad and his life revolves around caring for his disabled Mum, who was severely injured after an explosion whilst reporting in war-torn Syria.
He spends his time in a world where everything is perfect, a world where the absence of his father and the state of his once brave, strong mother doesn’t matter.
Then one day he meets the mysterious Sahra, a Syrian refugee, and she, unlike anyone Date has ever met, understands.
Together, they set off on a journey, both physical and mental, the find out the truth about the things that are missing in life. For Dante, it’s the idea if being a normal teenager again, a normal son. For Sahra, it’s being able to stay in the country that she loves without being threatened by death, it’s peace in her home nation.
3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!
A Journey // Emptiness // Friendship // Truth // Identity // Culture // The Past // Warmth // Family // Emotion // Memories // Music // Mystery // Science
4. Introduce us to each of your characters!
Dante – is fourteen years old, fatherless, responsible for the care of his severely disabled journalist mother and living in a dream world where everything is perfect. Although he is imaginative, but he is also very lost and confused. He finds it hard to make friends and is shy.
Sahra – is a sixteen year old refugee from Syria. Mysterious and wise beyond her years, she helps and joins Dante on his journey to discover the truth about the things missing in his life. However, Sahra also has troubles, she longs to return to her beloved country and wishes to help her home nation escape from the clutches of war.
Autumn – Dante’s single mother. Once a strong, passionate female journalist who specialised in reporting in war-torn countries, she is now severly disabled after being the victim of a large explosion in Syria.
Paige – A girl of Indian heritage that Dante and Sahra meet on their journey. She helps them understand the truth about filling in the missing gaps in their lives. Very musical. Beautiful singing voice.
Leonardo – an Italian boy who eventually leads Dante to his Father.
There will be other, less important characters, but those are the main ones.
5. How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)
As I said before, I have a very laid-back approach to writing and I’m quite inexperienced with novels. For this project I am outlining my plot (!) very roughly and working hard on my characters.
6. What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
This novel is going to be super emotional and descriptive, very musical and beautiful and colourful. I can’t wait to weave all of those adjectives into my writing!
7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting.
A Journey – so this novel wont be set in one place, it will be a journey, a progression through many diverse locations.
Inside The Characters Mind – Dante spends most of his life living in a fantasy world that he has conjured up with his imagination and that helps him cope with the absence of his Father and the condition of his mother. At least that’s before he meets Sahra, part of the journey is her coaxing him out of that and into real life. So we get to spend a lot of time exploring his psychology!
In Real Life – this story will be very real (apart from the bits that take place inside Dante’s mind)
8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
Dante just wants to make sense of his crazy life, like most teenagers. He feels secure inside his imaginary world where everything is okay, but part of him wants to step outside of it, into real life, and that’s where Sahra comes in.
There’s not really a bad guy in this novel, but Dante’s insecurities and doubts about ‘leaving’ that world behind and discovering the truth is a big obstacle for him to overcome.
9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
Dante is a different person. He’s no longer shy and awkward, he no longer lives inside a fantasy, he has friends who are with him in everything and most of all, he has filled the gaps in the melody of life.
10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
I want them to feel…
INSPIRED – I’m sure everyone can relate to these characters in some way. It’s good to be inspired by characters.
EMOTIONAL – this book will be packed with feels, guys.
CHALLENGED – everyone has a comfort zone that deserves to be stepped out of.
And now, here’s a bonus excerpt that I hope will get you hooked:
There was something different about her, I knew that the moment I first looked into her whirlpool eyes.
I wanted to speak to her, but she seemed far away and I had no idea what to say. The revelation occurred when my ears detected a faint murmur spiralling from her lips, I recognised the rhythm as a recent pop song.
I sidled up to the park bench where she sat. She stopped humming. “You a fan?” I asked, attempting to sound casual.
“No.” her voice was clear and distinct. “I’ve just got a cognitive itch. You get those sometimes?”
“Um, sure. I mean, I guess so.” I hadn’t expected this, maybe just a quick exchange of opinions on some popular boy band?
She rolled her eyes, but maintained a perfectly serious expression. “A cognitive itch,” she began patiently, “is where a song gets stuck in your mind and your brain can’t help but fill in the gaps in the melody, even long after it’s finished. It’s a continuous circle with no beginning or end. Make more sense?”
“Yeah, I can’t quite remember if that’s ever happened to me before.” My brain seemed unable to process the right words.
She frowned and shook her head, as if chasing away her thoughts. “That’s not typical human psychology. Usually you wouldn’t forget an experience like that, it would be ingrained in your mind forever. Your brain is strange like that, it processes and stores the most random of memories. Except they’re not random, of course. Every memory forms a complex tapestry, threads in a story, the story of a life. Everything is relevant.”
She stared straight at me. And I found the courage to smile.
“Sahra.” her smooth, lightly accented voice broke through the moment. Her headscarf tumbled over her forehead and she pushed it back with a small, sparkly smile. I looked at her dark, shining skin and then down at my hands, they were pale as anything in comparison.
“Hi. I’m, um, Dante.” I could feel her black, glittering eyes searching for my face and I bowed my head, suddenly self-conscious.
“So, are you a fan then?” When I looked up, she was staring into the distance, her proud face angled so that the sun shone on her determined features.
“Oh. No. Not really. I don’t really like that kind of music.” I shrugged.
She looked at me for a moment, as if weighing me up. “Why did you speak to me then, Dante?” Her question caught me off guard. Of course she’d wonder that, especially now I’d told her that I wasn’t a fan either. I couldn’t even use that excuse.
“Well….I….er…” I envied her ability to express herself so articulately. “I suppose I just….I guess I….I mean….you know?” I waved my hand about in a gesticulating motion.
A fleeting smile crossed her lips and she let out a small laugh. “What?” I let my hands drop to my sides and smiled back, shyly.
“Oh, nothing. I’ve just got this feeling that you and I will be good friends.”
I could have punched the air.
I didn’t, obviously, just watched as she rose from the park bench and walked away.
I was just about to call after her when I saw a scrap of dusty orange paper lying on the seat. It moved slightly in the breeze. I grabbed at it.
I picked it up and breathed in the warm aroma of dusty cinnamon. When had she written it? It certainly wasn’t whilst I was there. Where had she found my name?
I slipped my phone from my pocket and run my fingers over the smooth surface of its screen. My fingers traced the familiar cracks. I switched it on and pressed the ‘call’ icon. I typed in the numbers carefully, check-in and double checking.
Finally I took a deep breath and pressed call. It went to voicemail. The automatic voice on the other end asked me to leave a message.
“Sahra. It’s Dante here. I, er, found your note and, well yeah, I’ve tried to call you, but instead I’m just leaving a message ’cause, yeah, you know. You’re probably really busy and whatever reason you asked me to call you, it probably isn’t urgent, but please call me back when you’ve got a minute. Bye”
I spent the seconds after I hung up cursing my inability to speak, but the almost immediately beeping and vibrating coming from my back pocket jolted me out of my gloom and into a state of nervous apprehension.
I answered the phone.
“Dante.” her voice cut me off before I could speak. “A cognitive itch is a bit like life, sometimes you can’t stop filling in the missing parts, the parts that should be there, but aren’t. Sometimes the thoughts that fill your mind and won’t go away are the ones that depict things that are absent in real life. It’s a natural psychological process, so don’t worry. Everything will be okay.”
She hung up.
Did you enjoy that? Are you doing NaNoWriMo?