Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Eating the elephant update

I compared building a new story universe to eating an elephant, back in October. What I didn't mention, in hindsight, was that I was in fact sitting down to eat a new elephant just then. The muse had inflicted a large-feeling idea on me (the brutal muse) and I was just starting to put my teeth on it.

It's coming up on eight months later. Working on this idea (codename: Bloodmagic) has been squeezed in between other projects and has occasionally busted out and asserted itself. Things are getting to the point where I should start doing the writer's equivalent of 15-second sketches. If I were a mad scientist, I'd be watching the skies for the thunderstorm I'll need to jolt this monster to life.

I love research. Over Thanksgiving, I read a couple strategically chosen books on the cultures that were providing a lot of the visual inspiration -- Aztec and Maya -- and tried to wrap my head around how such a culture becomes "normal" in the minds of the people living inside it. How does it mesh up with the reality around them?

There were also the ecology and technology aspects to work out. This will be a big change from the medieval New England world of Disciple and that's part of the elephant that I haven't chewed on too much yet. More research to do!

Trusting the universe
I've mentioned before that the universe will bring you what you need for your art. Lately, one thing that's been given to me is local music performed in small venues to small audiences. The DJ's know me as a regular, and they've often seen me scribbling down thoughts with pen and paper. For me, music is a shortcut to emotions and I collect those for each WIP.

I maintain playlists for my writing projects and yes, Bloodmagic's playlist did pick up some dark, hard-driving electronic music. It's turning out to be a dark story, so that's easy to understand. There are a few tracks whose reasons for being there isn't obvious, though. There always are a few of those. Keeps things interesting.

The universe also pointed me toward a couple horror influences: one old and familiar, and Hellraiser.

Guided brainstorming
Another way to "trust the universe" is to look at whatever the universe brings you and find a way to incorporate it into your art. So, sometimes I decide that I'm going to watch/read/do something and whatever it is, it will inform my WIP. How? Don't know. I'll roll with it, however irrelevant it seems.

I don't remember exactly why Hellraiser became an influence on Bloodmagic -- aside from being a classic horror franchise. I've watched several of the movies now and its influence has trickled into far more than the obvious blood and gore.

Well, the good movies have. The bad ones were just bad.

Applying craft
Piles of ideas are all well and good but this needs to be a story. Beginning, middle, end, rising tension, climax, character development, the whole nine yards. Unlike real life, fiction is supposed to make sense, as they say.

So I also used some tools in eating this elephant. The outline got built alongside the universe and the core characters. I've got a sense of the character arcs and the central theme. I've installed an engine: that abstract central question that these characters are wrestling with on my behalf. There will be sudden gear changes and a literary flourish or two. It'll be fun.

Don't wait too long
When is it time to start writing? That's always a tough question, but I've found that sooner works out better than later. Writing always clarifies things, and when you start earlier in the process it contributes to the WIP's development rather than potentially conflicting with what's already there.

Have you been working on a new elephant?

1 comment:

Wm. L. Hahn said...

Fantastic post, in every sense! I must say I feel a kinship with you Louise- I only have the one world, but its vastness, in large part, is what held me back from doing anything more than random notes for so long. I also think that your idea of trusting the universe strikes a chord. As a self-confessed chronicler, I'm trusting THAT universe!

The one thing that baffles me- and I've seen other authors do the same as you- is the idea of tagging music into the writing process. And I've been around music all my life! There are songs and lyrics in the Lands of Hope, for example- but I haven't yet felt much of a connection to tunes in the Alleged Real World. Have to keep my ears open on that one. Thanks!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...