Emma, Interrupted

Emma, Interrupted

A Story by Alexandria Gill

November 2011 was one of the craziest months of my life. To say that I actually wrote a 50,000 word novel would be a vast overstatement. I participated in National Novel Writing Month, which is a worldwide organization that encourages writers to write as much as possible in one month without editing or worrying about the quality of the work. The point is to get words on the page and meet the required word count every single day.

I ended up writing an impractical story with a character that aggravated me to the point that I almost gave up. After about a week of NaNoWriMo, I pretended that she did not exist so that I could continue writing. Her name was Emma, and I think the reason I couldn't write her was that she was destined to die.  

Originally, the story centered around Emma, another girl named Ryleigh, and their mutual love interest, Sam. I wanted the reader to think Sam was cheating on Emma and Ryleigh, and only at the end would it be revealed that Emma's story took place two years before Ryleigh's story. The novel would then end in Emma's tragic death. So basically, the story did not have a plot. I should have had a better outline than that, and I do not recommend going into NaNoWriMo as blindly as I did. As a consequence to my inadequate planning, I am embarrassed by what I wrote. I am especially ashamed of my inability to work around Emma's personality.

I wanted her to be likeable, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make her be who I wanted her to be. It was like she was trying to avenge her death by being the most annoying, whiny, idiotic character I have ever written. About a week into November, I decided I couldn't deal with her. I made the decision to cut Emma out and only write in Ryleigh's point of view. 

Without Emma, however, it did not have the chance to even resemble a novel. I wouldn't even call it an extremely rough draft, it was so incomplete, and I blame it all on Emma and her stubbornness. Her unwillingness to cooperate left me with a jumble of words that came together to tell less than a quarter of the story.

Tossing out Emma's side of the story was an injustice  to the other characters in my novel, who I actually liked. I knew I would have to try again.  For a while, I ignored Emma, Ryleigh, and Sam. I hoped that when I pulled them out at a future date, there would be a real story, and Emma would not drive me completely mad by being uncontrollable. I guess that was the main problem: I was trying to tie down the most free-spirited person in the story, and she did not want to be tied down. Even though I hated her, she would not leave me alone. 

One day over the summer, I woke up with the urge to finally write Emma's story. I began to think, What would the story be like if Emma wasn't destined to die? I decided that, although I was using the same names and physical descriptions, I would not hold the characters to the same personality traits they had in my original first draft. 

I then began writing a scene from Emma's point of view with only vague answers to those questions, and Emma morphed into someone almost completely unrecognizable. Before, she had been a bratty teenager full of angst, even though she didn't even have a reason to be angsty. It took less than a page for me to realize that the new Emma has serious issues. The old Emma had been slightly narcissistic, but the new Emma is completely psychotic.

Instead of just being stereotypically boy-crazy, Emma is obsessed with Sam to the point where she is a potential danger to herself and everyone involved. I do not yet know the extent of her psychotic behavior, but I have a feeling I will have the opportunity to write a pretty gruesome murder fairly soon. 

Most people would not look at me and think, she thoroughly enjoys writing about obsessive and possibly deadly characters, but that is the point. I am an introverted girl living through the people in my head. Writing is how I rid myself of excess emotion, and I will admit I have a tendency to be obsessive over books, music, and television shows. 

Emma may be my way of keeping myself from going to the extreme. I would never be obsessive over someone I personally know, because I understand that it would be completely crazy. Even if I encountered one of my favorite writers or musicians, I would probably not be able to speak, would run away, and have a panic attack in the nearest restroom. They would never know how much I knew about them. 

With Emma, I break that boundary. I channel my obsessive tendencies through her, and multiply them by a hundred. Emma has never found a social encounter awkward or uncomfortable. If she ran into her favorite celebrity on the street, bodyguards would probably have to keep her at bay. 

The odd thing with psychotically obsessive characters is that they are found in so many novels, but they are typically viewed in a positive light. People have begun to think it is normal for book characters to be obsessed with the people they love, especially if the character is male. Maybe I just haven't had enough personal experience, but I think this concept is ridiculous. Even in a romance novel, there should be more to the story. That is kind of why the first draft of my novel with Emma failed.

So, if you ever decide to embark on a crazy novel writing adventure and sign up for National Novel Writing Month, make an outline before you begin. Otherwise, you may end up with no plot and characters who will later become psychotic murderers whose sole intention is to drive you insane.

© 2012 Alexandria Gill

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Added on September 18, 2012
Last Updated on September 18, 2012
Tags: nanowrimo, november, writing, characters