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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

writing for dollars, reading for love

Except for my inner emotional tusslings, yesterday went normally. It was sunny and cloudy, and I beavered away on my copywriting work, not really affected by my previous sleeplessness. Kimmie is suffering soreness on her right side, so we did a low-powered walk through the neighborhood rather than a full-on power-walk. Both fatigued, we were in bed before 8:30 p.m., while it was still light out and a neighbor was still using a power saw. I took half a Sleep Aid and slept through till 4:11, feeling much better.

But I'm feeling a bit bad that I'm not pushing my book forward these past few days, after my recovery of enthusiasm or direction last week; it feels as though I'm kind of flunking a quiz. "Ah--you feel motivated? Let's test that motivation..."

But my research reading seems to be telling me that I'm on the right track; I'm learning new things that I believe will make a difference to my story, to the way I see its world and my own world. There is simply no denying that my discovery of the world of my story, and my discovery of its characters, is a slow, slow process. They have not sprung up fully formed. They are more like figures emerging slowly from a fog, or images appearing on photographic paper while it's being developed. Developing a photograph is a chemical process that can't be rushed. If you use developer that's too strong, in a hurry to get the image, you ruin it--you lose the subtlety and full detail of the image. Such is my memory of it, anyway, when I developed film and prints in the darkroom at high school. The image is there on the paper, latent. You need to be patient and just minister to the process.

As I do my reading, I feel my viewpoint changing, evolving, developing. Gradually I'm acquiring expertise. As I read, I witness the diversity of views among the experts, and gain a sense of the range of possibilities, and my own freedom from reliance on any one borrowed point of view. This freedom gives me the power of creative choice. Robert McKee talks about this in connection with the writer's research: knowledge of your world, that is, the world of your story, gives you choices. These choices become the possibilities of your story; the more you know about the world, the more of these you have. Depth of familiarity equals creative freedom.

All stories demand a suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader; we play the game of accepting the artifice of a story, the fact that it is not reality but an imaginary construct. But, having stepped through that magic doorway and suspended my disbelief, I want to believe. Within the imaginary world of the story I want to find credibility and consistency; I want to find truth. Whatever emotional and spiritual truths a story might offer will arise only among the hard granite and oak of its setting and the firm but yielding flesh of its characters. And the more fantastic the story, the more solid and real it needs to be.

On a labor of love, no amount of work is too much, of course. Is there such a thing as too much love?


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