Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Little Authorial Victories

I did a lot of writing and thinking last night and this morning. I don't think the grief scene will be hard to write, but it's kind of like an island--I needed to build a good foundation for it in my mind before working through just what will rise above the surface and make it into the scene.

As I work through these things, I keep finding metaphors. (My friend Robert will tell you that I am quite the little metaphorist, or something like that. But it's true. My brain is always looking for metaphors or analogies that will explain things with greater brevity and clarity, and I take great delight in finding that perfect metaphor for complex things. I've always been this way, was this way even before I became an English major.)

Anyway, I was seeing a metaphor for my character's situation ... and that "metaphor" had actually happened in a previous chapter. Then I saw another metaphor for a different aspect of the situation ... and it had occurred several times already in the story. I don't want to talk to much about it, but here's a very cheesy example, not from this book:

Say the character is a successful businessman who "thinks he's so great" and, with his smug confidence and superior talent, unknowingly crushes the aspirations of less accomplished--but no less talented--younger, greener folks in the business world. And in the book, he also never quite looks where he's going and tends to step on the spring wildflowers that are peeking up through the cracks in the sidewalk outside his condo. The metaphor is of unknowingly crushing people in the early blooms of their careers, but he actually does unknowingly crush the early blooms every time he walks out his door. It's an unspoken metaphor and a symbol and an actual event, all at once.

So. I'll use the example above to explain what happened with my novel--or with my consciousness--this morning. I'd made the guy step on the flowers in Chapter 2, and again in Chapters 4 and 7. I didn't really have a reason for it; it just seemed like the thing to do, the thing to write. It felt right. Besides, the flowers inevitably grow right outside his front door, so he would have to really make an effort not to step on them, which he, of course, doesn't. Then, later, his character developed and he turned out to be a guy who, not maliciously but ignorantly, crushes the new and colorful talents that have the potential to enrich his concrete, black-and-white world. And I sit back and think, "Whoa! A pattern! And I didn't even realize I was making one!"

It's happening here. Some part of me was working on the pattern all along, and my conscious mind just realized it. And it fits together so perfectly, and then I keep seeing more patterns, more layers, that were there all along and are only now surfacing into my consciousness.

The patterns emerge, and everything seems to "fit" in a kind of fugal intricacy. My job is just to keep writing, to keep realizing and building on the pattern--not by thinking about the pattern, but by writing what seems "right," and having faith that, as long as I'm true to the story, the pattern will continue to work itself out.

3 comments:

  1. Wow, that is really cool... whenever I come up with a decent metaphor for a scene later in the story, I always have to go back and add the 'flower stomp'.

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  2. Wow, I'm really impressed.

    One question. I notice that you are able to write about your book on here and still produce lots in your writing time. What role does blogging about your book play in the creative process?

    I'm asking because I've also been working on a book (not fiction) which I finished the first draft of a week ago. Somehow I couldn't bear to talk about it on my blog at all aside from once about two years ago. The talking about it seemed to drain all the creative tension - or something. Just curious.

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  3. Rob: Ha ... "The Flower Stomp" ... maybe I can sell the idea in a book about creative writing. :) Part of the fun of revising is making sure all the flower stomps are in the right place and don't "stomp" themselves too obviously. So I'm sure I'll be adding bits and pieces of the metaphor here and there when I revise.

    Violet: Congrats on finishing your first draft! I really haven't been blogging much on my book (or at all) lately because I do think it's somehow "bad luck" to talk too much about a book that's still in the works. (Experience has shown that!) Note that I don't discuss the actual subject or characters of my novel! But I do find that it doesn't hurt to write about the creative process. Sometimes as I'm writing, I have thoughts on the writing process that I can either write in my journal, or post on the blog.

    I do find that writing about writing, as in these posts, helps me to hone my writing skills even more. But as far as feeding into the creative process of my novel ... I think it's more an example of the creative process spilling over into the blog!

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