When I started Neil Rorke’s character blog I knew it would be difficult if not impossible to drive reader interest through plotting. Foreshadowing a big plot event, then delivering on that moment, could easily (if not necessarily) lead to a soap-opera/cliffhanger mentality. Not only would that kind of storytelling compel more of the same, it would reveal me as the author-orchestrator of those events and diminish any sense of character I might be able to create. And that would be the exact opposite of the effect I wanted to have on readers.
By sticking with aspects of character, and by sticking with the manner of posting inherent in real-world character blogs, I’m giving readers very little to hang on when they drop by. Whatever it is in plotting that drives a story, I’m not making that available.
That’s a conscious storytelling choice, of course, but it’s also consistent with Neil as a person and with what’s going on in Neil’s life at this moment. So instead of trying to drive Neil toward some particular plot event, or even some revelation of character, I’ve been trying to let Neil be Neil. He gets to post about things that interest him, and he gets to say whatever he wants to say, whenever he wants, as long as it’s in character.
As a writer it’s been an interesting creative experience. Obviously I have total control over what Neil says, but in some ways I’m just as surprised as a reader might be by his take on real-world events. Being surprised by characters is a common experience for any writer, of course, but it’s still interesting watching it happen in what seems to be a completely open storytelling form. (I don’t agree with some of the things Neil has said recently, but I know he’s telling his truth. He’s not ranting just to rant: he feels what he’s saying, and deeply so.)
The only conclusion I think I can draw at this point is that I’m doing the right thing. I don’t have any proof, I can’t claim any readership of consequence, and I’ve had little or no feedback. But my storytelling gut says I’m headed down the right road, and that what Neil’s doing online fits with the Neil I know from the novel I wrote with him as the central figure. (Whether the two storytelling forms will work together or not I don’t know, but that’s the hope.)
Right now I think my biggest fear is that something Neil expresses on his blog will limit what I might do with him as the main character in another book. Trying to keep track of an active character day-to-day is completely different from a character who lives only in the snapshot moments described by a novel, and I have new-found respect for the problems inherent in serializing dramas.
The good news is that I’m getting to know Neil better, and I can feel more depth evolving in him as a character. That, in turn, is making it easier to blog as Neil, but it’s also making me want to write another novel with him as the main character. Plot deservedly has its place, and I’m not anti-plot.