Saturday, July 11, 2009

Following the muse

My current WIP is taking me on a fascinating journey. It began with a teaching tool I've used repeatedly in the Adult Education courses, a means of providing a common connector to a group of disparate would-be writers in developing a story from a single scene in a forgettable movie starring Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman. In the process, I've written a dozen or so scenes from the story to illustrate how to begin, develop, sustain and complete it. Of necessity, I've kept the story reasonably simple, but my last group of students challenged me to write the whole story and, in a moment of unusual weakness, I agreed.

I began by joining the dots, connecting the existing scenes into a continuous narrative, but the character of the hero kept eluding me. I couldn't quite see how he came to be as he was and went searching into his background for an answer.

A memory came to me of a transit lounge conversation in the early hours of the morning, some ten years after Vietnam. Our plane was delayed, we were tired and bored and my companion on the journey had drunk more than was wise. He'd been involved in covert operations during the conflict, but didn't speak much of their details, concentrating instead on how he was recruited and trained. An astute individual, his descriptions of the methodology and the individuals involved kept me interested and successfully passed the time until our plane was ready.

Vietnam was too far in the past to be of value to the story I was writing, but the effect of the passage of time on my companion wasn't and I had the environment that moulded the hero into the man he was.

Storytelling presented a problem. With so much to be hidden until the right moment, a simple narrative from the heroine's point of view was inadequate, and the normal(?) balance of heroine/hero not much better. I'd already passed the thirty thousand word mark and was loathe to discard the lot so I went searching for another point of view that could carry the story and found it in a secondary character.

I'm now back at the thirty thousand word mark, having re-written the beginning to capture the changes in the heroine and introduced the thoughts and actions of my second point of view. Other than a very general picture, I have no idea where the story will go from here...and it's fascinating.

It's a great life...insane or not.

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