Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Where Do Stories Come From, part two

status: 19,ooo (every damn one of them like pulling teeth last night)

So I had this guy sitting in chains at the courthouse, awaiting transfer back to Parerua. Soon he'd be on the loose.

My fingers hit the keys. Would the annoying kid beside him end up a casualty or a reluctant sidekick? What would happen to the other prisoners who had court that day? How was he going to get out of the building?

What's this guy's name?

Sometimes the names are right there when I ask for them. Sometimes they're reluctant. I thought maybe he'd be 'So-and-so Lee', so that his nickname would be Stagger Lee ('cause as Nick Cave sang, 'he don't give a good God damn, not Stagger Lee').

Nope. turns out it's Baker. Okay. I can live with that.

I check back in with him every few scenes, see what he's up to. Turns out he's a LOT more resourceful than I would have thought. I have an inkling as to why, but I've been wrong before so I'll keep it to myself.

As I wrote those further scenes, it turned out that his goals were a bit more complex. And that he truly, madly, deeply loved the woman who double-crossed him and put him away. That he has a daughter, and she has her own agenda. That he's a LOT more resourceful than I would have thought. There's bound to be a reason for that.

A couple of the odd things I learned about him while writing, one was that his 'voice' was very much that of a crusty old man. He's been away a long time, and a lot of things are different now. It was so persistent, I went ahead and made him old. Like bald head and white beard, Father-Christmas-on-steroids old. It's weird. It works.

That meant going back through the earlier scenes and doing any necessary retouches. When you're clinging to ten or twelve thousand words, you hate to do any cutting at all, but cut I did. and put in more. It's one thing to take out extra story later, but the bits that just don't belong, they're wrong, and they can't be allowed.

Besides, it's an opportunity to write a little better, and know (or at least suspect - it may all yet change again) that these *new* bits surely fit in!

In a sidebar, yesterday was kind of writer's blocky, mostly because my sense of what-happens-next was horribly blunted. It was like, everyone would brush their teeth before bed, and I bet at least a few of them go home alone to watch TV. Uck.
I found the conflicts, focused on them and only them, and so the story flows. Just hits some debris once in a while.
Forgot to mention yesterday that another influence for the story came from an appearance in traffic court. (I mostly obey the road rules, but have, shall we say, a somewhat casual attitude to laws about displaying one sticker or another in my window. The car still starts without them, but the tickets are $200 a pop!) Anyway, I spent my morning in court, taking notes of course.
A fair few felons were in traffic court too, mostly arguing for or against having their fines turned into additional time served. Interesting in itself, but there were other things as well. The felons were kept in a lounge out in the hall and trasported by two bailiffs when it was their turn. The bailiffs were always alert and on top of their game. The prisoners appeared in court in civilian clothes pulled out of a goodwill box back at the prison, and they wore wrist manacles with about a foot and a half of chain between the bracelets.
A body could do a hell of a lot of damage with those, if they knew what they were doing.
And then one guy showed up wearing the wrist and ankle hobbles. I never did find out what he'd done, but he did get me thinking...


Charles Gramlich said...

When I was in my twenties and writing mostly short stories, I think I most wanted to explore mood and setting, but steadily as I've gotten older and moved toward longer works I've become more interested in characters. I still like exotic settings and situations, but now the characters have to work for me first before those other elements can come into play.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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