Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Stavark's Stubbornness

An odd and wonderful thing happened last night as I was writing. It's been so long since it's happened that I'd forgotten what a thrill it is. It was like a deja vu that, instead of lasting a split-second, stretched and pulled me into it for an interminably sweet moment.

As Inigo Montoya would say, "Let me splain..."

First, a little bit of background. The system we (Giles and I) used for the Heartstone Trilogy was:

1st step - Giles and I brainstorm ideas, sketching visions of the characters, setting and plot together
2nd step - Giles takes our ideas and plots the chapters
3rd step - I springboard from those synopses and write the rough draft
4th step - Giles goes over what I wrote, removing and adding as necessary
5th step - I take his revision, remove and add as necessary
6th-12th steps - We repeat as necessary until a suitable final draft is agreed upon

Giles and I paid a lot of attention to ensuring that the story adhered to our vision. Oh, we would change our minds and change course often enough throughout construction. We weren't rigid in our execution of our brainstormed ideas, but there was always an attention to looking back at the framework.

"Am I doing this right?"

"Can I go down this path?"

"How will this affect our original vision?"

Since I've started working solo again, I taken a new tack. I don't write down the plot. I keep the images, ideas and characters in my head (such that I can. I do not have a mind like a steel trap. Rather, I have a mind more like a chalk drawing from Mary Poppins), then sit down and just let loose.

There are downsides. This opens me up to all manner of mistakes. I could spend hours writing down a scene, only to step back and realize that the scene is useless in moving the story forward, and has to be scrapped. In fact, at the very beginning of the Wildmane re-write, I penned four full chapters, only to realize the direction I chose wouldn't work. I deleted them all, started over again and finally got the scene I was looking for.

But the upsides. Ah, I've begun to feel them. It started small at first. When writing, instead of feeling that vague concern, I began to feel a thrill, a simple joy of shaping the unknown. I banished the question: "Am I doing this right?" I locked those worries away in a dark little cell at the base of my mind .

I remembered that thrill from those faroff days of writing in my teens, when I first started. Back in Durango Colorado, where I sat in my bedroom with that sweet, high mountain breeze fluttering the blue checkered curtains, and I clacked away on my mother's electric typewriter. Of course, I didn't need to tell my nattering mind to shut up back then. I didn't have a nattering mind.

Every time I've sat down to write lately, or even contemplated writing, I've been hungry for it. I wanted to feel that ghostly excitement again.

Last night, it consumed me.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I come home on Monday and Tuesday nights and closet myself away. Last night was no exception, and with cheesy 80s music in my ear, I dove into Mirolah's world.

Mirolah, Gar Verritt and Stavark ran from the Merthalic blademen, trying to scale the wall to escape. Except Mirolah couldn't hold on, and she fell. And the blademen surrounded them.

Gar Verritt turned to Stavark who, as a quicksilver, could certainly have saved himself by flashing away. And this was the plan. Not Gar Verritt's plan, but my plan. The grand plot's plan. Stavark needed to flee. He was going to get help, and return to spring them in a swashbuckling spectacle that would make Errol Flynn proud.

So Gar Verritt, as I made him do, said to Stavark, "Go!"

And Stavark said, "No."

And so I made Gar Verritt tell him again, "Stavark, you know what is at stake. Go!"


I sat back from the keyboard, stunned. I did not want Stavark to say "No." That was not the plan.

And then I grinned. I grinned so wide my cheeks ached. Stavark refused me. Noble little Stavark quietly and stubbornly took a stand that he would, of course, have taken.

And in that moment, he came to life.

I didn't make that decision to say "No". Stavark did, from the core of his character. Stavark does not leave his friends surrounded by the enemy, even if it's the smart thing to do. Even if it is the only thing to do. He stays with them until the end. He does not care about my plot structure. He does not know it exists.

And that, I think, is when a good story really begins.

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