Thursday, 22 April 2010

Hallelujah, Bum Again!



Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland continues to progress, but not quickly. I'm feeling a little lost in my non-utopia (topia? zoëtope?) of Fairfields, and yet more convinced than ever that this place of needful infodump and wandering plot will be the emotional heart of the story once it's done right. Since this is a story that will need all the heart it can get when the plot charges cavalry-wise into the Rising, the bum is continuing to hit the seat in a spirit of hope.

It certainly still has its own dynamic. Somewhat to my immediate annoyance, the 'faffing about' chapter before the Wassail proper has split itself into two, each substantial - the present one, in which cosmopolitan Luke accepts this strange new place and finds that even here is not a home; and the second, in which arch-conservative Kate wrestles angrily with its innovations and follies, and finds that she desires it. The dramatic thread is beginning to make itself plain here, and the changes in my protagonists to emerge from my shadowy and distorted visions of them. Beginning only. I haven't caught them yet. But I'm past the stage at which any preparation except writing them will serve me.

Now, in times past, I've done in or at least put into long coma many a promising story by getting caught in the following fork. Not seeing my way ahead clearly, and knowing there's something missing, the fork's dangerous prongs are these:

1) Research background more; write character sketches and plot frames; rationalize, elaborate, do every damn thing but write the story, until the spirit of the tale is so bogged down in crud that it flies away in disgust.

2) Apply bum to seat and write the story, but wrongly because one doesn't see one's way; bog down in the resultant crud until the spirit of the tale &c.

Aided this time by the notion of deliberate practice - for which I am indebted to the energetic Justine Musk - this time, on detecting bogginess, I've adopted a new approach. Rather than repeat the trudge that left Kate and Luke stuck in the wandering woods for a year last time, I've loosened my death-grip on the old quill, and written this section with a different intention than usual. In this section I know, from the beginning, that what I'm mainly doing is exploring my new land, and the peculiar characters it produces, and my protagonists' real reactions to it. I have no doubt that the revisions here will ultimately be heavy - maybe revisions out of recognition. I don't normally like heavy revision at all.

So what?

Bulling on with prime text, intended to bind me for the rest of the story, is something I've done before. The reason it failed in my favourite abandoned work, Linden's Glory, was because what I slogged on with was plot, even though the plot had ceased to serve any purpose or make any sense beyond itself. It skidded on to wearisome places I had no wish to visit, and deprived my characters of life in the process: dull word-robots, going through their motions. I should have flung on the brakes long before, and gone back to look for my demon again. It would have stretched me, to the limit of my powers, and might have failed - but still, I should have done it.

This time, Fairfields is a new thing, and it stretches me mightily. I should therefore do it, win or lose. Since it is beyond me to get it right bulling on with pure plot, instead I'm trying to scout my way craftily, exploring chiefly through character with only an eye on the plot in the offing. If I have to start again from scratch, even that will be no great matter - because, this way, I'm learning true things about what all my characters care for and how they react. Next time, I should have much more of what I need to steer straighter.

It's a new and interesting way, for me, of dealing with a lack of 'inspiration' - telling more of what 'really happened', at the top of my present range, until the characters and situation are inspiring again, without worrying over-much about how much of the output will persist indefinitely. That's started to happen for me with Luke, already. Kate, a much more dramatic personality, may be difficult, but I haven't the least fear that her coming chapter will be less than exciting.

So with a light bum shall I pilot my much-enduring swivel chair, and lightly the plot shall guide its people, until they and I are enough, and the tale speaks clearly of truth to me again. It's hard, it's novel - and, after my many depressing experiences of block in the past, above all things it's fun.

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