Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Beginnings and Endings

Have you ever had a story in mind, one where the characters hang around whispering to you like ghosts?  It's a weird thing, because even when you'd prefer to, you can't exactly divorce yourself from the story.  Even when you are consciously thinking about the story, somehow, bits and pieces of the story, setting, characters start forming themselves in your mind --- sort of challenging you to DO SOMETHING PLEASE!
This is where I am today.  Taunted and challenged and mortified.  I suppose that up until recently I didn't really understand how ill-equipped I am to write story that is haunting me.  If I am going to write this one correctly, give it the life and significance it deserves, write the kind of story I WOULD LIKE TO READ, then I must research and do some more real learning.  With this realization comes the fear that everything that I have written prior to this has been pretentious fluff, and so of course while I am moving ahead, I am questioning what must get left behind.
Now, about the research.  The book that keeps me up at nights (the one I have yet to write) will require, I have realized significant research.  This shocks me more than ever because it isn't like it is some kind of historical fiction, or about some complex hierarchy.  No.  My story is a dystopian tale that is a mild blend of sci-fi, drama, literary....  Yes, that's right.  I can't even label it yet, which may be a good thing, right?
So, while I am outlining, which I usually do not do, I am writing bits and pieces, playing with voice and tense and creating and installing a world that does not yet exist.  I have ordered a few books and have taken the time to read/listen to books in genres that I usually do not in order to try to develop and hone an ambiance for this story.  And believe it or not, in all of this, it is the ambiance that I am having the most difficult time getting right.  I fear that the depth of the story will get lost.
So I am beginning to understand that this is going to be hard long work.  And I am beginning that work.  What am I ending?  I have put to rest the stupid notion that this was going to be easy.  It won't be.  But, I think I am going to love it.
Two things before I sign off.
1. The Order of Things: How Everything in the World is Organized into Hierarchies, Structures, and Pecking Orders by Barbara Ann Kipfer is a good general guide to have handy when you are writing but don't know or understand or remember how things might work.  It helps to keep your work honest and authentic.  The link here will take you to Amazon, but I think I bought it from Writer's Digest about fifteen years ago.
2. Chapter 11 of H&T should be posted by the 15th.  Thats what I am shooting for anyway.  I'll be submitting to "The Artist" today for art.
I know that I said two things but allow me to add a third.
3. There is an interesting series of podcasts called WNYC's Talk to Me.  Check it out.  And if you like zombies ( I know that I do) you can check out the We're Alive podcast.  This one is so well done that you almost feel as if you are sitting at the the movie.  I have listened to some pretty sad zombie podcasts and this one is absolutely superb.
See ya, and tell me what you think.

1 comment:

  1. I totally understand about the research bit. I did years of research for my first dystopian series of novels and stories, which were set in a future era of resource scarcity. I thought I had it all figured out, only to get into the story and realize I had no idea how big a load a donkey can pull or how fast a horse and rider can travel in a day. I was ignorant of seasonal plants for the region I based my story in, and I had no idea how to drill a well. That was just the beginning.

    I took weekend crash courses in wilderness cooking, how to use a bow and arrow, how to gut and skin a pig, and how to track people and animals. I brushed up on my horseback riding skills. I even had a crazy notion of doing a two-week internship on an organic goat farm in the New Mexico mountains, but that proved not to be necessary. Still, this shows the lengths one might go to in order to research a story!

    By the time I ran out of ideas for that first dystopian series and began Steal Tomorrow, I knew all that stuff cold, so it was easy to throw in references to alternator-based light generators, sugar use in wound care, pine needles for vitamin C, and ammonia-based refrigeration. I hadn't done all these things, but I had read about them, which made me at least as knowledgeable as my characters.

    Good luck with your research. If you're interested in doing some hands-on learning for any of the more primitive settings in your novel, the next Becoming an Outdoors Woman weekend is in late March: