Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Major Character Announces Himself, Sudden-Like

Interesting thing happened with the writing today. I had about a half day for writing (after teaching) and I fancied getting a thousand words down. Made myself a fat mug of strong tea and sat down at the computer. I put on some Bach (classic music has become a crutch) and tried to figure out which of the existing scenes I should pick up with. I had an inkling that I wanted to introduce something new, a new scene or character to stir in to the early pages of the book. It just felt like I didn't have enough at play at the beginning, enough of a complicated structure. I wanted to hear more instruments playing, I just didn't know which, how or why.

So what did I do? Something that had nothing to do with directly figuring that out. I decided to make a copy of the map of Acacia and tape it to my desk. I'd done this with the map I'd drawn while writing Acacia 1, and it felt like about time I did it with this one, too. Of course, an activity like this is potentially just resistance rearing its head - a way to distract myself from the work at hand. But it's hard to know. Sometimes these random things are about the process.

Anyway, before long I had the map there before me, and with my eyes floating over it a bit, I remembered a character from the first book. I latched on to the idea of him. This character I think is only mentioned by name once in The War With the Mein. Few, I reckon, will remember his name or think him of any consequence. I won't mention it here, of course. Wouldn't be prudent.

I heard him on conversation with another character. Hmm... I opened a new page and began to write it down, but then realized that wasn't from the first scene he was going to be in. He had to be introduced earlier, yeah... Right near the beginning, actually...

My eyes settled on the map again. Where might a scene with this character take place? A new town, I think, one I hadn't used before. My gaze drifted around for a bit until I found what seemed like an appropriately blank spot on the map. I spent a while trying to figure out a name for a place, and when I thought I had it I penciled it in. And there it was! A new town on the map, spelled out and just as reasonable sounding as any of the other names. Once I had it there I knew what sort of town it was and I knew what sort of scene this character would be introduced in...

I began describing how labor had stooped his back, how it was hard for him to stand straight, but that he was impressive when he did so. A little flowed out after that, and before I knew it I'd gone beyond my thousand word goal. I'd introduced a new character and watched with surprise as he rolled a host important issues on to the stage as he came. I hadn't thought about him at all up until today, but just like that he's claimed a role in this one, and if he's in it at all he's in it as a major character. He's just won the casting-call lottery.

Now, which thing came first? Did I introduce that character by name in the first book because at some subconscious level I knew I'd come back to him later? Or have I come back to him simply because he was a name that I could latch on to and find a role for in this one? Did the map demand to be taped to the desk because it knew it was going to help? Or was I just ready to find the answers somewhere, and the map was as good a place as any?

I don't know, and I won't know tomorrow when I wake up to fumble through the whole process yet again. So it goes...

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4 Comments:

Blogger Constance said...

David, isn't it great when the puzzle pieces just snap into place?
I think your subconscious does a lot of stirring the pot in anticipation. I think if we knew for sure how the process worked, it wouldn't be near as much fun...

9:16 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Agreed, Constance, it is great when the puzzle pieces snap into place. It's great when the pieces appear from nowhere also - and then snap into place!

Our subconscious does a lot of the work. I do believe that. Of course, the subconscious only takes care of it's side of the bargain if we're taking care of ours - that is, struggling, struggling, struggling with it...

2:53 PM  
Blogger Yehudi01 said...

David, I am excited to find your blog...sounds silly, but I am in the process of writing a book. Don't know why, other than saying that G-d laid it on my heart, so i sat down at my computer and just started writing. What has come out thus far is amazing, (I'm not a writer, so I am easily impressed!)

I've since hit a block. I could really use some advice...and I thought your use of a "map" is brilliant. I need that...a type of outline. I will be visiting your blog often!

12:43 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Yehudi01, Good luck with the book. They're all tough, but first ones are especially so. My advice regarding that "block" - knock it down, climb over the rubble and keep going. (Outlining's not a bad idea, either.)

7:43 PM  

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