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.

Following your instincts

Your mind knows only some things. Your inner voice, your instinct, knows everything. If you listen to what you know instinctively, it will always lead you down the right path — Henry Winkler

When you pursue something that has become a passion for you, there will be days where you question your instincts.

Most likely, the question of why you want to follow your passion isn’t in doubt. But maybe discovering your voice, your vision, and finding the best way to express it, is what has you stalled in the process.

It can be a struggle trying to find your voice. I’m still finding my voice. Although I am a lot closer to knowing what that voice is and letting it resonate with anyone who will stop and listen. In the last six months, what matters to me, what resonates with me as a writer/novelist has never been more clearer. And it comes back to what I fundamentally believe in. That and I’m arriving to a point in my life where I couldn’t possibly give a shit what people think about my choices or my opinions on any given subject. I’m not here to please everyone. Is anyone here to please everyone? Pleasing everyone is fucking impossible.

Last week, I sent my writing mentor the first 13,000 words of the next novel for his reaction. What I hadn’t expected was how quickly he read those 13,000 words. And I hadn’t expected him to be so effusive and positive about so many things regarding the novel and my growth and ability as a storyteller. It’s not that he’s stingy with the positive remarks. He always has something good to say and the constructive criticism and ideas he offers is always insightful, wanted and appreciated. He’s one of the best people in my life. There were so many great observations he made that my head is still swimming.

To be honest, having anyone say complimentary things about my storytelling abilities is humbling as fuck. I’m not one for accepting compliments easily due to the fact I naturally default to feeling more than embarrassed as soon as one is given to me. And I also have the nagging feeling the person (depending on who that person is) is trying to butter me up and weasel something out of me.

I’m a nice person. But nice doesn’t equal doormat.

Anyway, my mentor’s positive reaction to the novel (aka my writing project) means that my instincts are right with regards to wanting to write this story and to work with these characters. This is a confirmation that I am on the right path with the kind of stories I want to tell.

And to be honest, the story chose me. The characters chose me. Why? I don’t know. But it is a story I want to tell. If you’re wondering what the story is about, I’ll have to disappoint you by only revealing that the story seems to fall into the genre of crime fiction. Really don’t want to say anything more until I’m done writing the first draft… well, maybe until it becomes an actual book. I have no timeline for when that will happen.

When I started working on the story, I wasn’t concerned with the genre. I am more concerned with telling the story. Slapping a genre label on it has never been a must-do at the start of any writing project. Now that my mentor has plunked it into the graphic crime fiction genre, I have more research to do. For now, it just involves reading. And hopefully, more field research which I’ll get the chance to engage in if I team up with the right individuals.

There is a lot more work to do for this novel. Most people cringe at the thought of more work, period. But when it’s something that won’t let you go, something that you can’t let go, something that fights for your attention even when life tries to get in the way, and something that says you — and only you — are the best person to tell the story, how can you ignore it? I certainly can’t. And I won’t.

Whatever it takes to tell the story.