Monday, December 28, 2009
A New Beginning
Whenever I start a new story, as I did yesterday, I tell myself what I tell my students: write the map first. Plot out where you’re going, know your central conflict, understand your characters better than they understand themselves. Not once have I followed my own advice. To me, writing is like solving puzzles. I know what should happen just as I know what a Rubrics cube looks like when it’s solved, but I don’t know how I’m getting there. Stories are mazes where I can surmise what the plot/resolution will be, but it will surprise me just as much as my audience when I get there.
In Stephen King’s book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft he writes that he intended in his book Misery to have Annie Wilks, the crazed nurse, to kill Paul Sheldon and if I remember correctly, to rewrite the death of Misery in a book stretched with his skin Memento Mori style. Ewwww…I know, but King says that Paul Sheldon was such a strong voice as he was writing the book that he wouldn’t be killed. He, the character, as he was being written figured out a way to save himself from crazed ass Annie’s axe. My characters are just as stubborn.
This new story I’m writing is called Brass and its set in the Steampunk universe of San Francisco. I’ve been thinking about writing in this genre for weeks after I read about an open call at Samhain. Me, being me, thought, gee, that’s so me! I’m like so knowledgeable about things Victorian, seeing as how I’m an ex expert from Boston in 19th century prints, and well, I also write fantasy, and gosh golly, I love the clothes. Why couldn’t I play with the genre and see what happens? I have until April for the deadline, right?
Then I started running into Steampunk EVERYWHERE. My friend Tannia in the U.K. posted a link to a site: http://www.datamancer.net/ saying that she wanted the steampunk computer featured. I want it too. Also, I’d like the flash drive, if anyone cares. I began floating through many sites, then reading books. Currently, I’m reading Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. He’s a bit hyper, but I’m riding through it. I also discovered much to my self-disgust that my cousin’s husband, James P. Blaylock writes Steampunk and is, well, famous for it. I think he tried to explain the genre to me at the reunion this summer but gave up because I was so obviously clueless. I have Steampunk, the new short story collection by the Vandemeers, on order. He’s featured in it. Let’s all hope that he forgives me when I tell him that I read his story.
My new story, Brass is just beginning. I wrote a plot summary, but just as Stephen King, I already know that my main character, Celia Cushing, will take the lead away from me eventually. My characters always do. This part, the beginning, is always the easiest and most exciting, when I’m fitting these personalities into a new reality, setting obstacles in their path and writing them out of the forest. The revisions will be harder, when I discover that my path was too simplistic or that I need to write new twists or even new characters into the plot. That’s another dilemma, though, and for another post. Meanwhile, I’m steaming forward. *shakes head at wisecrack self*