The other day, my writerly musings included the statement
The heroes start from the outskirts and work in, which is not how I should be doing it--I should know where they're going, even if nobody else on God's green earth does. Because that's my job as the creator.After some discussion with edda, I kind of feel like I stated my case a bit too strongly there. It might be more accurate to say "which is not how I feel comfortable doing it." I actually reread Stephen King's On Writing today, and he talks a good bit about the element of surprising oneself in writing--and also the idea that you really might not necessarily know the answers to some things (both he and y'all bring up the example of Raymond Chandler completely forgetting to bother solving the crime that The Big Sleep is ostensibly about. Like, to the point where even he never bothered to figure out who the murderer was. And I still love how the whole point of Rebecca is that the new Mrs. DeWinter doesn't even get a first name--nor did Du Maurier bother to think of one. There are actually things I've decided I "won't know," or don't care to figure out, because I like the ambiguity better. I guess what I was trying to say is that if you're having trouble untangling your plots, if what you have isn't working for you, it might really help to sort out some fundamental elements. I don't know... it's one of those things that strikes me in retrospect as being very right for me but very wrong to state as a universal. So, you know, use it if it helps you, and if you enjoy surprising yourself to the very end, rock on.
And see, that's the thing. I don't plot obsessively from the word go. I actually come up with a character first most times--strangely enough, I either come up with a female protagonist right off the bat, or I come up with a male protagonist and rapidly become more interested in a related female character. Black Ribbon actually started out as West's story, and Dr. Munro would be That Guy He Goes to for Inventions, and Rose Hannah would be the Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter who wanted to know what West was up to and join in the fun. And as soon as I had that in place, I started gravitating towards Rose Hannah, although I decided that the story could be told from her (third-person) POV as well as West's--they alone could share perspective duties, in other words. So obviously The Thing That Happens to Her was not originally part of the plan. A lot of things weren't part of the plan. In fact, I only thought of a fairly shocking development at the end of the story in the last six months or so, long after I was into the Sorting Out My Plots phase, but it felt so right that I knew I had to do it. So in that giddy early phase of playing around with the characters like Barbie dolls in my head--and sometimes long afterwards--things happen, and a lot of them do surprise me. It's like planning a trip (I think I've used this metaphor before?)--at first you get to decide which countries you'd like to visit. That's the early, giddy part. You might surprise yourself with your decisions, or with what you can afford. So then you take that rough idea and start planning the trip, buying the tickets, mapping out the route. And even while you're mapping, you might find that waiting a day might save you money on a ticket, or there's a monument nearby that you'd really like to take a detour and visit. And even after you've started traveling, you might be on the road and see something you never expected, and stop to get out to see it. I'm not saying I'm against surprises, or that I plan the life out of things; I love detours, I love serendipity, and I always leave room for them. Maybe it's just really enjoy the mapping phase more than a lot of people do, and I'm more methodical about it than a lot of writers.
Also, I was going to ask for help with a plot point, but I did a little looking around and realized that the existence of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway--which I have actually been on, now that I think about it, and have actually seen what I want to describe--means that I can very likely get away with a very steampunky development that I've been anxious about since the earliest days of writing the story.
I really should put up some linkspam, shouldn't I?
Television's 'Mr. Wizard' dies at 89. Awwww.
Woman dies in ER lobby as 911 refuses to help.
Eerie MySpace page may hold clues to murder.
Croc hunter's daughter meets Dalai Lama.
1800s weapon found embedded in whale's blubber. A living whale, mind you.
Brain mechanism explains sense of deja vu.
Ask A Cokehead: What's So Great About Cocaine Anyway? Surprisingly, this is not an article from The Onion.
We is twins lulz.
How long till coconuts?
More People Saying Stupid Things About Literary Blogs. There's a point Scalzi doesn't even mention, which is this: you can also have commenter discussion on a blog in a way you can't with, you know, newsprint.
Google privacy 'worst on the Web,' watchdog says.
Prison escapee who wanted to kidnap Letterman's son is captured.
TV's Top Writers Assess The Sopranos' Swan Song.
Jack McCoy finally promoted.
Dan Radcliffe Finishes West End Run in "Equus" and is probably preparing his bunker for the Potterdämmerung.
Cusack To Snyder: ‘I’m In’ For ‘Watchmen’ Role; Watchmen Still Wants Butler.
Weisz Stars In Jackson's Lovely Bones.
30-something stills of Keira Knightley in Atonement.
More Added to Daniel Craig's 'Flashbacks of a Fool.'
Kinnear and Tierney Join Baby Mama.
William Hurt Joins The Incredible Hulk.
Patrick Stewart's 'The Merchant of Venice' Still Moving Forward.
Crispin Glover Casts Spell Over Bijou Phillips In ‘Wizard of Gore.’
Time Magazine Previews Pixar's Next Three Films.
Warner Bros. Clarifies -- 'Thundercats' Will Be Animated.
Martin Campbell and Richard Price to remake 36 quai des orfevres.
Screen Gems Remaking The Big Chill.
1408 Passed On Bloody Roth; Stephen King Endorses '1408.'
trailer_spot: I Am Legend, Brave One, Hot Rod, Romulus My Father, Heartbreak Kid, DOA: Dead or Alive; American Gangster, Invasion, Shoot 'Em Up, Ten, Champion.
Three New Clips from 'Stardust' Online.
Miramax Passes On 'The Arcanum,' "a fictionalized take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle leading a Super Friends style group of paranormal investigators called The Arcanum -- which includes Harry Houdini and the notorious voodoo priestess Marie Laveau as members." Wait, why haven't I read this yet?