Thursday, May 01, 2008

Inspiration for the Month

Probably not the way you are thinking of inspiration, dear reader. I began writing a story last year (length TBD), a tale of personal growth and geographic quest (exile and returning home)*; I got my characters’ narrative to the point where they took the next step – but there was no next step there, nothing but darkness. I knew where they were going to be in the end, that was pretty much built into their personalities early on; however, they still need catalysts, drivers, to help the get from A to B in less than a million pages of aimless meandering. I’m no James Joyce, so trust me, you don’t want me to take on that particular literary experiment.

But this weekend I was pointlessly googling for images of whoever/whatever came to mind, and I found this photo. And some…thing, I guess, clicked in my mind, and suddenly I knew that face belonged in my tale – not the real person, by the way, but the character traits that photo conjured in my mind when I saw it. Within minutes I’d created an entire group of characters, storylines to go with them and to propel my original characters forward in their own tale. Eh, why am I bothering you with this? Well, my poor RL friends and coworkers get to hear way too much of this stuff, so I thought I’d share the wealth ;-)

If the story gets to a point where I’m willing to share some – or all – of it with any sort of reading public, I will do just that. Writing is like knitting, though. You see a yarn you like; you see a pattern you like; you think that, with a little work, you can get them to go together really well. Next you know, you hate the yarn, you hate the sweater, and the entire project spends years in a plastic bag until you give it away or unload it at a garage sale.

As a writer, you can have the same experience. Some characters don’t have nearly as much to say to you as you thought originally; story ideas that seemed to have real meat to them end up nothing but dried bones. However, with writing it’s not easy to give unfinished stories that aren’t working to the local goodwill; but you can recycle ideas, characters, or even words if it’s good dialog or a wonderfully wrought phrase. Still, it’s not uncommon to end up with several notebooks that have the literary equivalent of a half-knit sweater in them.

* If one views life as a journey then (almost) all narratives are ‘quests’ of a sort, character starting at A, going through B to get to the end, C, be it stories of personal evolution (Pride and Prejudice), personal devolution (Watt)…I was going to add novels that focus on quests, such as Patricia McKillip’s Riddle Master trilogy, but that includes personal evolution and devolution, as most fantasy quest novels do to a greater or lesser extent.


Miss T said...

Yes, yes, yes, the literary half-knit sweater! I know this so well. Nicely said.

Jane said...

Thank you! It's my goal to get at least one of my literary sweaters to the point where it needs only blocking to be ready to wear...or read, I guess.