Embracing the voices

People have always heard voices. Sometimes they’re called shamans, sometimes they’re called mad, and sometimes they’re called fiction writers. I always feel lucky that I live in a culture where fiction writing is legal and not seen as pathologyRuth Ozeki

I am a fiction writer.

Yes, I have heard voices — or specifically, I hear the words. Once in awhile, they come to me in my dreams. But that form of communication is rarely used with me. They prefer to come to me in images. Sometimes, the imagery is scattered or disjointed but never random. Most of the time, the imagery is specific and words usually accompany them. But it isn’t uncommon for the imagery or the words to appear without each other. But I always know where they go.

Am I crazy? Give me your definition of ‘crazy’ and I will tell you if you are correct. Normal is so boring. Normal is something everyone is told be so every individual will be easier to handle. Easier to control. That’s why laws exist. That’s why religion exists. I think you need to be brave and a little crazy to be the person you could to be, the person you should be, the person you need to be.

Am I a shaman? Technically, I’m not. But I could be. If I am, does that frighten you? If it does, would knowing that I only access the supernatural and the other-worldly to tell stories, make you feel better? If it still doesn’t, then I’m sorry… we can’t be friends.

Whereas some folks may be riddled with angst and a little fear as a result of hearing voices, I embrace them. It’s easy to play with them. It’s easy to be around them. Sometimes, it’s far more comfortable to be in their presence than being in the presence of actual living breathing human beings.

Let’s be honest, humans are a weird lot. Yeah, we have a brain (sometimes that can be contested), we claim to be intelligent (that’s definitely debatable) and because of that, we have the ability to communicate better than species in the animal kingdom (that’s kinda laughable, to be honest). And we have the ability to access all of our emotions, but we don’t. Okay, some members of humanity seem to issues with that, especially when we’re told to repress them for the sake of not embarrassing others. Yeah, fuck that shit. And now you know one of the reasons I’m more comfortable with the voices or the words I hear in my head than with people.

So, yeah. I’m a fiction writer. It’s the skin I’m most comfortable in, right now. It’s the skin I can call my own. It’s the skin I’m meant to wear. Anybody who says otherwise will get a swift kick in the arse.

Treasure trove of revelations

It usually helps me write by reading – somehow the reading gear in your head turns the writing gear — Steven Wright

Last Monday, my research material for the short-story-turned-novel arrived. I can’t remember if there was ever a time I was this excited to do research. Each book, each item I took out of the cardboard box I deemed a treasure trove of revelations waiting to be discovered.

I can tell you my two main characters were excited, too. They’re reading the research along with me. I don’t notice them until I come across an interesting tidbit that intrigues them and one or both of them immediately enact an idea for me. No warning whatsoever. Just — BOOM. It’s so easy for them to tear me away from whatever I’m doing.

Fortunately, any moment/idea they play out for me lasts roughly a minute. And I take another minute to absorb their idea. Then I give them the side-eye and ask if that’s something they want to explore. They give me one of two responses — shrug and say it wouldn’t hurt to see if the idea has merit to the narrative, or they give me an enthusiastic ‘Hell yes!” They know I have final veto on an idea but we hash it out and make sure we’re all in agreement on any given idea/concept.

Since receiving the research material, I have made it a point to set aside a minimum of a hour a day to go through it. It’s kinda nice to purposefully set aside time to read. The book worm in me had missed it. The subject matter is beyond interesting. I admit I haven’t made time to read for the pure pleasure of it. But this is a start. I’m also thinking that reading non-fiction might be the only way for me to make time to read. There are certain genres of fiction I undoubtedly make time to read. But beyond those genres, I’m hard-pressed to make a concerted commitment to read for pleasure’s sake.

There was a time I would read anything. I was much younger back then, had fewer responsibilities and fewer distractions. Maybe I’m picky. Maybe I just have more interests vying for my attention.

All this research is going to be a boon for the short-story-turned-novel. Already there are little details I want to change, include and/or consider. I am genuinely excited about this. There is much that will influence how the story will evolve. This will give my characters a more rounded portrait of who they are at the beginning of the story and where they will end up at its conclusion. I have a couple of different endings in mind for them. But as I go through all the research material, I believe a new idea or two on ways to end the story may reveal themselves to me.

A treasure trove of revelations. I love it.

Too big to contain

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing — Benjamin Franklin 

Turns out the short story I finished a couple of weeks ago is worth turning into a novel. This is what my writing mentor pointed out after reading it last week. He loves the story. Thinks it’s great. He did mention it was a little too long to be short story and probably too much good material to trim down without hurting it. I’m not surprised.

In my previous attempts to write a short story, I tended to write a little too long but the content was such that it couldn’t be edited down to a manageable length without fucking up the story. I had not made a real attempt until now to try again. However, I did write something that gave it a short story feel for my mentor. But, it wasn’t a short story. It was a scene for a future novel. Clearly, that novel is going to have to sit on the back burner again. Or I figure out how to juggle two novels (where the themes are quite different even though there may be shared characteristics) at the same time.

Anyway, because my mentor once thought I had written a short story when it really wasn’t, I figured maybe I could consciously try writing a short story again. So much for that idea. I didn’t quite succeed, again. But it wasn’t wasted effort. Writer Colum McCann described the short story as an imploding universe whereas a novel had shrapnel going all over the place. It seems my long short story has plenty of shrapnel flying off its pages, and I haven’t really spent all the artillery yet. There is plenty sitting in the reserves. So, after a couple of email exchanges with my mentor, I have another novel to work on.

In the grand scheme of things, I did say I wasn’t done playing with the two main characters. Although for some reason, the concept of a novel never popped into my head until the suggestion was made to me. Maybe I was a little too focussed to seriously consider it.

My two characters are pleased as punch that they get to play with a lot more pages. And the sandbox has magically become bigger yet again because I see there is a shack sitting in one corner of the sandbox. There’s a nice little fire pit, too. I’m sure a hammock will make an appearance in the next day or two. Clearly, they’re settling in for the long haul.

I’m not sure if you can tell that I’m thrilled to be turning the short story into a novel. Just to reiterate… I am thrilled. I always knew they were too big to contain within the parameters of a short story. I don’t even know why I tried. Now that the game has changed, there is research to do. There are four books to read and two films to watch. I’m sure the research list could become longer or more specific. One would not regard the four books as summer reading material. I anticipate that even though the subject matter is intense, going through the material shouldn’t be nightmarish.

I’m chomping at the bit to getting going with the reading since the material won’t be arriving at my door until later this week. For now, I’ll be determining what additional scenes I will need for the novel based on what I’ve written so far. Most of the scenes I’ve already written will be given the chance to ‘breathe’ and come into their own. There are other ‘bigger picture’ themes and concepts I have to write down on paper and formalize in my mind. Let’s call it my mission statement for this novel. They’re sitting in my head already so it should be painless putting it into words. Just like the second ‘work-in-progress’ novel, the writing process for this novel is completely different compared to The Raven Sonata. It’s evolving again. And it feels right.

I always thought turning one story idea into a novel you could hold in your hands was one hell of an achievement. And it was. It is. But coming up with a second story idea for a novel seems to be a nerve-wracking prospect until your brain cells rub up against each other and come up with something interesting. Quite honestly, I was excited I came up with a second idea for a novel. But the short story idea elbowed its way into my head giving me no other choice to follow it. I figured I would return to the second novel after writing the short story.

That was the intention until my two boys proved to be too hot to handle in a short story format. Working on a third novel wasn’t something I had imagined I would be doing. It was an accident. I just wanted to put my focus back on book #2. Oh well. This is starting to look like book #2 and book #3 will be swapping places in terms of which one becomes the next published novel. Right now, the hot hand goes to the boys. I gotta stick with them because they won’t leave me alone and I can’t stop thinking about them or their story.

We’re obsessed with each other. But in a good way.