09 September 2013

Digging For Bones

Circle: The Spinner's Journey Cover Art painted by
yours truly, so if you copy it, please link back!
I have a very specific process for writing my stories, and it’s quite different from the free-style writing I use here on my blog or when composing lyrics and poetry. If anything, my method for producing a story shares more in common with my method for making statues: I start with the bones, then add in the meat and finish everything up with the skin and details. For statues, this translates into building a frame out of wire, fleshing that out with metal foil as necessary (for larger pieces, mostly), then adding the outer layer of clay in which all the pretty little details are set. Once it’s baked, the painting begins. In writing my stories, the process goes something like this:

  1. Stream of consciousness-style chapter summary (the vision)
  2. Dialogue sketch (the bones)
  3. Descriptions of action (the meat)
  4. Descriptions of place (the skin)
  5. Editing (the details)

My stories—likely a product of my obsession with any show created by Joss Whedon—are rather dialogue-driven, so the dialogue is where I start the active process. The summaries tend to be the freestyle, unedited, ungrammatical, hand-jammed ramblings of a writing-as-you-think-it production that is illegible to all but me. Thus, the real work begins with the bones: the dialogue. Sometimes the words my characters speak come to me in the way that poetry does; I don’t think about what I’m writing, I just let the ink flow and it miraculously sounds kinda good. Sometimes I realize I have a notebook and a few minutes to kill, so I’ll brainstorm briefly about what scene I need to write next, and then I’ll start the conversation in the middle. More often than not, a random line will pop in my head, and I’ll think to myself, “That is totally something Gren would say about Ruv when he’s complaining to Hal,” and so I write it down and before I know it I’ve got three pages of scribbled conversation between my protagonists.

I look at my pre-story dialogue as sketches, and so that’s what I call them: dialogue sketches. They outline the chapters, provide commentary on the action, and reveal aspects of my character’s personalities that occasionally I didn’t even know until, well, I just let them start talking. I’ve never written a play, but I have read a few. My dialogue sketches look something like a screenplay when they’re done, except my characters never exit stage left. Rather, they whip out a sword and start fighting a dragon only to discover that even the dragon is feeling a bit chatty.

The reason I bring up my dialogue sketches is because I’ve produced a LOT of them recently. As you may know, I finished the preliminary draft of the first novel in the Circle series, titled The Spinner’s Journey. (On a side note, if you are unfamiliar with my story’s premise, you might want to check out the Bookshelf tab at the top of this site; there you will find story summaries, character profiles, and explanations of Aorean geography.) However, as it took me so long to finish the novel, the first few chapters stylistically did not fit with the later chapters, and Present-Anden disagreed with Past-Anden about the way the adventure should ultimately begin; thus, I decided to rewrite the first three chapters.

Which means starting all over again with the dialogue sketches.

The prologue and first chapter are already complete, so I’ve moved on to chapter two, which is where the protagonists really come together as a whole. Three of them—Mari, Gren and Hal—begin the story as old friends; but they are not a complete group until they bring in Laria, and only when they are complete can they begin the journey to ward off chaos for another thousand years. How do they begin their journey, you ask? Why, with a song, of course! And here is that song, as a nifty sneak-preview of the revamped beginning to The Spinner’s Journey:

Through the mists of time and space,
Where rivers speak and birches sway.
Into the flaming forest land,
Bring us all, hand in hand.

Bring us all, our journey begun;
Bring us whole, each and everyone,
Into the mystic land of old,
Where all dreams and stories unfold.

Through the mists of space and time,
The shifting fabric, dark and light,
Into the flaming forest land:
Bring us all, hand in hand.

No comments:

Post a Comment