Dark clouds on the horizon. Yay!

The last time I braved the NaNoWriMo challenge, I prepped a little bit.

I tucked a few characters, a couple plot ideas, under my belt.

I tossed a back-up pound of coffee into my pre-NaNo pantry.

These minimal preparations gave me just enough confidence to step out onto the noveling highwire.

Today, anticipating the long nights ahead, I secured my margin of safety on the coffee front: two extra packages of Seattle’s Best Breakfast Blend.

But characters, plot-lines and narrative whatnot? — this time I’m working without a net. I’ve got bupkus here.

And that may not be so bad.

Last time, I had my quirky cast all set to be drawn into a web of deadly international intrigue. I thought of them as little powder kegs, just waiting for the match to set them off on their blockbuster adventures.

Sadly, I made a fundamental, crushing mistake. I set the main action in Paris, a city — alas— I love too well. The City of Light became my novel’s undoing — a disastrous distraction for my characters.

Rather than stray into the path of oncoming calamity, my cast sat around in cozy bistros. They did not scramble to pit themselves against the rising tide of evil, they frowned over menus.

Lengthy meals became the norm. They refused to even consider their next move until after the cheese course. Calories they should have immolated clinging to life in some nail-biting scene, they burned up arguing over the wine list.

Longtime fiction writers know that characters can get away from you: they misbehave, they veer off their intended story arcs.

I got so frustrated with the endless table chatter — and astronomical bar tabs — I scrapped my plot outlines and chose vengeance over literature.

I had snipers fire into crowded restaurants hoping to drop at least one gabby gourmand out of the endless dining loop.

But it was too little, far too late.

While I lost about five pounds during NaNo, my characters reached the finish line gasping for a croque-monsieur to tide them over until the sequel.

I’ve learned my lesson.

No character gets so much as a stick of chewing gum this time. Not until they’ve clocked in some serious time cheating death or cheating on each other or otherwise pulling world-class drama onto the page.

And just to make sure we don’t see a slacker replay of the last outing, I’ve cut up all their credit cards.

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.