jennygordon: (Peacock Butterfly)
Hmmm, so I had a couple of thoughts about MaybeBook yesterday.

First, I realised that I've been missing an element important to the mood I want to create, and that element (pun intended) is the appropriate weather. The idea for the story arrived complete with the time of year it's set, but the weather at that time of year doesn't particularly necessitate the right atmospheric weather. This was a problem, as the time of year isn't really moveable for other reasons. Then, like Tom being wanged over the head with a saucepan by Jerry, it hit me. River mist! Hurrah!

And the other thing I was pondering yesterday is the fact that three strands of my plot involve either reconciling, or solving the mystery of, events that took place in the past, and which have relevance to the current situation. This raised the thorny issue of how to deal with a story in which significant amounts of backstory will be necessary. And then, as if the interwebs were reading my mind, this was posted on The Writer Unboxed. It's given me all sorts of interesting food for thought (you have to read past the introductory waffle in the first paragraphs before you get onto the issue at hand, i.e. backstory, and the pitfalls, perils and possiblities thereof. (Love me some alliteration!)

So, much writerly thinking of thoughts at the moment.
jennygordon: (Clematis)
Something I've realised while at the early planning stages of MaybeBook is the importance of place in my stories. For me, the setting of a story needs to be bound up with the plot, each reflecting the other. 'Wuthering Heights' is a classic example of how place and plot are intrinsically linked. You can't imagine Cathy and Heathcliff playing out their wild and terrible passion against any backdrop other than the bleak moors with its torrid weather that so perfectly mirrors the emotional heart of the novel.

Now, while that's an extreme example, I often find that the books which resonate most for me are those in which the setting and the weather have specifically been chosen to echo and support and enhance the plot.

Reading Susan Cooper's 'The Dark is Rising' sequence has reminded me of this. Who could conceive of those books about old magic and the timeless battle between Light and Dark being played our anywhere other than the ancient places of Britain? Equally, the descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness with all of its harsh beauty perfectly enhances the beauty and the cruelty of life depicted in Eowyn Ivey's 'The Snow Child', while the English Fens are the perfect setting for Franny Billingsley's dark fairytale, 'Chime'. Indeed, for all those examples, the stories and their themes are born out of the landscapes in which they are set.

In the same way, a twisty, turny mystery might benefit from being set in an old city, full of narrow alleys and blocked-up doorways, where the setting enhances the red herrings and paranoia of the plot. Or the claustrophobia of a broken-down old house might underscore the breakdown of the relationshpis of those living in it.

Not every story needs such obvious links to its seting as a tool to enhance the plot. Indeed, direct contrasts between the two might work just as well. Indeed, too obvious a link might end up being cliched, and I'm inherently cliche-adverse!

That said, setting is certainly one of the first aspects of story that floats to the surface of the caudron when I'm brewing a new story. It's often as thought the elements of story and setting have already come together in my subconscious, so they arrive in tandem. Then, it's for me to figure out the ways in which one will complement the other. In fact, if the setting isn't clear when I set out, I'll have trouble making progress until I've found the right one. The one that will add to the plot, and, come to think of it, will add to aspects of the characters too. Like the way Heathcliff could have been shaped from a piece of the dark, brooding, dangerous moor. We are, after all, products of our environment (sorry, cliche!)

What about you, how important is the right setting for you in your writing/reading?
jennygordon: (Naiad)
It's been a tricky couple of months writing-wise. First, a long-anticipated book project died on me. Then another entirely unexpected one rose from the ashes. I've swung between delight and doubt as I slowly gathered my plot and got to know my characters, and then ...

...and then ...

...Four days ago, I started writing the story. Or rather, I began channeling my MC. Her voice has become increasingly insistent over the past week or so, and it turns out she simply couldn't wait any longer to begin telling me her story. I held her off for an extra half-hour on Saturday while I got the notebook I'm writing the tale in ready to go by decorating the cover so it looks how it should for MaybeBook. See, here it is ...

MaybeBook Notebook 1

And then ... wheeeeeeee ... I was off.

I'm very deliberately thinking of this as my Exploratory Draft and paying heed to one of the many lessons I learned over the two years of working on SeaNovel, which is to give myself permission to intersperse the prose with post-it notes to myself. These will act as place-holders; reminders that I need to go back and figure out a particular aspect of the setting, or what my MC calls her father, for example. Rather than getting bogged down with such things as I used to, I jot the note and continue with my flow.

It's a looseness I haven't worked with before, but I'm hoping it'll help with my tendency to get stuck over details at a stage when I need to be bushwacking my way forward with the story.

I so love these early days of a new story. I set out with trepidation and hope and excitement. Anything and everything is possible. I know there will be thorny tangles and marshy mires and other frivolously alliterative metaphors along the way, but right now, nothing scares me. It's just fun, fun, fun.

In The Now

Nov. 14th, 2013 09:50 am
jennygordon: (Skywatcher)
So, I'm wondering whether first person present is the best tense to use for MaybeBook. It's not a voice I've written a novel in before. First person, yes, but never first person present (outside of short stories). Yet the raw immediacy of it, and the intimate, inward gaze, feels right for MaybeBook.

It's odd, several of my novels have started in first person, past tense, but have subsequently evolved into third person, past, at some point along the way. I think it's because that's my comfort-zone, and first person can sometimes be too restrictive. But while third person, past, has worked for other books, perhaps it's time to branch out, stretch myself, challenge myself to try out a different approach.

I came across this quote by Shannon Hale the other day:

"The rewrites are a struggle right now. Sometimes I wish writing a book could just be easy for me at last. But when I think about it practically, I'm glad it's a struggle. I am (as usual) attempting to write a book that's too hard for me. I'm telling a story I'm not smart enough to tell. The risk of failure is huge. But I prefer it this way. I'm forced to learn, forced to smarten myself up, forced to wrestle. And if it works, then I'll have written something that is better than I am."

Hale's words resound with me. If first person, present, doesn't work for MaybeBook, then hey, never mind. But I think I have to at least try. The mood of MaybeBook requires an intimate voice, and a narrow viewpoint. And if it does work, if I stretch myself and wrestle and learn, then that's all to the good.

Maybe I should give it a try ...

Another maybe for MaybeBook ...

I imagine most of us have a comfort zone tense and viewpoint. I'm a firm believer that we should use what best suits the story, but what about you?
jennygordon: (Magpie)
I posted a little while back about how the idea for MaybeBook came from out of nowhere to land in my yoghurt one lunchtime.

Of course, it didn't come from out of nowhere. It was more the case that a collection of random bits and pieces that have been rattling around in the attics of my imagination chose that moment to stick themselves together and bust out.

Moments like that — unexpected and powerful — feel like a gift.

The way the creative imagination works fascinates me. What was it that prompted those disparate fragments to emerge in a new shape right at that moment? Had they been gathering in secret and laying plans to pounce on me when I was least expecting it?

Most of those fragments have lain in old notebooks for many years, and I've played around with many of them in short story form. Three years ago, I wrote a number of shorts, one of which contained the mood I want to evoke in MaybeNovel, while another contained some of the vital story elements, including the setting, a recurring symbol, and part of MaybeNovel's backstory. That short story took place a hundred years before MaybeNovel, and set in play some of the important aspects MaybeNovel will work with.

And as to where the ideas for those shorts came from ... well ... who's to say?

The attics of my imagination are vast, rambling places, full of cobwebs and locked trunks, and piles of old, yellowing newspapers.

And spiders the size of small dogs.

Not to mention a ghost or three.

Oh, and watch out for that dodgy rafter ...

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