Tugging at my bindings

When I get an idea for a book, something appeals to me, it’s usually a character. I’ll see a picture of a female marshal in front of the courthouse in Miami and she’s got a shotgun on her hip and it goes up on an angle. And she’s good-looking. And I say, ‘I’ve got to use her’ — Elmore Leonard

When it comes to starting a new writing project, it always revolves around, not one, but two characters born out of an interesting idea. That is how it was with my first book. That is how it is with the modest pile of story ideas currently sitting in my figurative keepsake box, waiting for me to revisit them or explore them beyond the one sentence description.

And clearly, that is how it is with my current writing project. Two characters who barreled their way into my imagination, disrupting the development of another story idea, forcing me to temporarily set aside that story idea for these two bundles of energy who have made it their mission to never allow me to ignore them for any extended period of time.

Apparently, they’re done being quiet and allowing me to go about my business during this extended time period that I am in. My two boys don’t come up to me and tell me point blank that they need playtime with me. This time, they sneak up on me ninja-style, which is pretty hilarious given how loud and energetic they are. Even when they’re quiet, the air ripples around them.

To be honest, it’s my own bloody fault. I’m starting to tug at the bindings that have me bound to the commitments I have outside from my boys. Then I started thinking about a particular plot point that popped into my head as I was driving yesterday afternoon. I’m seriously considering adding this plot point to my boys’ story. It would also expand a third character’s role in the story and would make the dynamic more than interesting between the three characters. This has the potential to play out in new, exciting and thrilling ways for everyone involved.

Of course, as soon as this plot point popped up, one of the boys fired off a grenade launcher and the other ran around banging two trash can lids together, both yelling “Hell ya!!!!!!” Yes, I know that’s a lot of exclamation marks. That’s how bloody excited they are.

They’re incorrigible.

That means the new plot point goes in. When your characters whole-heartedly want (it’s actually more like, demand) you to add this twist into the story, you can’t say ‘no.’ I do like the twist. It might offend some people’s sensibilities but I really couldn’t give a fuck about that, right now.

As for the reaction of the third character whose role has become much more intriguing (and possibly a little more frightening), she’s pretty pleased. She doesn’t jump around like those two hotheads. She’s ready to sink her teeth into what I’ve come up with for her.

I’m happy to be developing her beyond being a prop. I’ve always wanted her to be more than that and it has niggled at me since she came to life. I’ve always believed she was meant to do more, be more than whatever archetypal conventions could cast upon her. I needed her to deviate, even if it’s just a little. And this twist is what she has been waiting for. The glint in her eyes when she realizes I have more in store for her, tells me this is the right thing to do.

Now when I think of her, Fleetwood Mac’s Gold Dust Woman comes to mind. But the version of the song that plays in my head is performed by Halestorm. It’s a great cover, by the way.

After my non-writing commitments have been met, it’s back to my characters. I’m still tugging at my bindings. But I know my boys will cut me loose.

Probably sooner than I expect.

The truth for me

Mostly, research is much more fun than the actual writing — Michelle Paver

Last week, I had another opportunity to do some field research. The second for my writing project.

It was a short outing. Way shorter than the 10 days I spent in another country back in October. But, fuck, it was a blast. I could have spent the whole day doing what I was doing. Learning and figuring things out. Increasing my proficiency at the activity. Yes, I’m being vague again. I’m terrible at word teasers. But I do have a visual teaser on my Instagram account. I’ll just leave it at that.

As a result, I now have a technical advisor for the project and that is seriously cool. He’ll also be one of the first people to read the first draft once I’m happy with it. I need him to make sure I haven’t mixed up my vernacular and terminology. Plus, he’s expressed interest in reading the first draft. It might have something to do with a certain car chase scene I needed his opinion on. It was clear to me that it piqued his interest.

I have no idea when I’ll finish it. I don’t believe in forcing things because forcing it usually ends up not what the story needed and you have no choice but to start cutting and re-writing. I believe great strides will be made again after I’m free of my commitments at the end of April.

But I have to admit the pull of the writing project is pretty strong. I should be paying more attention to my commitments but everything seems to be under control right now. Yes, I know… famous last words. Anyway, it seems my characters are finding ample opportunity to try to aggressively suck me back into their world, or at least remind me that the minute I fall into something monotonous and boringly eye-rolling, they’re going to swoop in and run off with my imagination like professional thieves in the middle of a high-stakes robbery.

I told you these guys are a persistent and possessive lot. That’s okay. I’m pretty persistent and possessive about them, too.

I don’t know if doing research is more fun than the actual writing because writing can be fun. Yeah, I’ll admit to being a masochist. Granted, not all research is fun, but it is engaging and, depending on what the subject is, most definitely necessary.

The research (and that includes the non-field research variety) I’ve done so far for the writing project has been, first and foremost, an education. It has been engaging, thought-provoking and yes, fun. There is always something worth examining. There is always something worth learning. I’ve done far more research for this project than I had for the first novel. That was due to the fact I was already familiar with the elements in the first book.

I’m not done with the research. I don’t think you’re ever really done with the research until the story becomes a tangible entity, like a book. Even then, what you learn from the research will always be with you. It will colour the way you see the world. And it will colour the way I approach and handle the next writing project. This is the truth for me.

It is a beautiful truth and one I fully embrace.

The kind of elixir I enjoy

I see only one requirement you have to have to be a director or any kind of artist: rhythm. Rhythm, for me, is everything. Without rhythm, there’s no music. Without rhythm, there’s no cinema. Without rhythm, there’s no architecture — Alejandro González Iñarritu

Considering there is a lot on my plate around this time of year, discovering the music of Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi is the last thing I should be indulging in.

But here I am, listening to him on Spotify when I can, wherever I can. The man has a profile there and he compiled a ‘Best of’ of his work. I cannot tell you how his compositions have added fuel to the creative fire that burns relentlessly in my soul. Not that the fire will ever be in danger of burning out.

I am forever humbled and blown away when my senses, combined with an already overactive imagination, are stimulated to the point that new scenes, ideas and concepts for my writing start throwing themselves into an already volatile mix of storytelling elements ready to transform into a novel. Christ, that was a long sentence. Maybe too long. Well, fuck it, I’m leaving it. That’s what Einaudi’s work has done to me.

He’s managed to seduce my imagination and, in turn, seduced me. That’s one way to burrow into my heart. Music. Talent. Mad skillz. Passion. The images his music evokes are cinematic in scope and nature. Just the kind of elixir I enjoy with unbridled want.

Einaudi’s work has been described as meditative and cinematic. I discovered that description somewhere online after a couple of days of listening the music. It had me at cinematic. That would explain the images freely swimming in my head — the chaotic kaleidoscope of shapes and colours swirling in my mind, waiting for me to dip my hand in to pull them out and arrange them into something beautiful and hypnotic.

What is so enticing and engaging about Einaudi’s work? For starters, he has simple leitmotifs that he uses to build complicatedly beautiful layers of sound between the piano and strings. His solo piano work is stunning, too. But the sound of strings and piano together is tantalizing to my ears. I’m not sure what it is about that combination of instruments, but whatever it is, Einaudi uses it to full effect. His musical sensibility is so alarmingly in tune with the way the creative part of my brain wants to function. Kinda a scary, to be honest. But so thrilling at the same time.

I think discovering Einaudi’s work is another sign that the storytelling ambitions I aspire to, are the right ones for the tools and skill set I’ve been trying to hone and sharpen in the last several months.

While I tend to my book design commitments, the creative fire will continue to burn. At low intensity, for now. But there are things I can do, such as re-examine the trajectory of the characters and make adjustments where necessary. Let those thoughts and ideas grow.

Once the commitments are done for another year, I will go back to stoke the creative fire so it can burn as brilliantly as Einaudi’s compositions.