Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The nutmeg

When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.
--Raymond Chandler
As you might have guessed, I've given up on outlining my second Luna Book (Voice of Crow) using the First Draft in 30 Days approach I began a couple of weeks ago, seeing as it's due in only nine days.

I'll probably try the method another time, but I found it overly structured for this project. I couldn't get past Day One - Character Sketches. Part of me was bored at the non-stimulating categories (Internal Conflict, External Conflict, Background), and part of me was just plain scared of VOC, and still is.

What's so scary about an unwritten book? Well, besides the usual spooky blank pages, it's Book 2 of a trilogy, which means not only is it the second in the series, it's also the second-to-last.

Duh, right? But there is a point here.

See, to figure out what happens in Book 2, I need to know what will happen in Book 3, how the whole shebang will, well, shebang (hey, Ricky Martin declared it a verb). My original trilogy outline, the one I wrote before I'd even started Book 1, no longer feels right. It requires my main character to make an unsympathetic and uncharacteristic decision at the end of Book 2. The only reason why she'd do it is because of an event that must happen in Book 3.

So now I have to rethink the entire trilogy's story arc to fit with what I now know about the main character.

(It's possible that if Eyes of Crow sells well, my publisher will ask me to continue the series past three books. But I'm not sure I'd want to do it. There are too many series that stumble on long past the point where the author has anything new to say.)

Back to my original point, which had something to do with the Chandler quote above. I was struggling through the outline, feeling a total lack of interest, and sensing that something was missing. It reminded me of this one time I was cooking chili from a recipe that didn't quite work. It needed a surprise ingredient, something to wake it up. It needed--and this will sound strange--nutmeg.

My nutmeg moment arrived on Sunday when I decided to take one of the minor Eyes of Crow antagonists and give him a huge role in Voice. He now has his own narrative point-of-view and subplot, making his development an important key in the overall story.

This bad-guy-turned-good (or has he?) was the equivalent to Chandler's man with a gun. He changes everything. His presence shakes up the storyline, and his inner conflict gives the work a new dimension beyond the standard good versus evil.

Most important, he cured my boredom. So Chandler was right: if you get stumped with a plot or lose interest in your book, introduce a catalyst.

Maybe a guy walks through the door with a jar of nutmeg.



Oooooo! That is great, Jer! Don't you LOVE when that happens! That Ta-DA moment! Whether it's a minor character stepping forward or...a collage (LOL!) it just is fantastic when that piece falls into place.

I wonder if I know this character...hmmm...


Posted by: Blogger moonhart at 2/21/2006 2:48 PM

One breakthrough is only the beginning. I just brainstormed using a Hero's Journey spread I learned in my Tarot for Writers class last year. One Journey per character for four characters. 11 steps on the journey, plus one theme card. One main card per step, plus two clarifying cards.

144 cards to look up and analyze in about forty different ways. I love this sort of creative interpretation of data, when the two sides of the brain come together in a big squishy collision that somehow leaves behind a discernible form.

I don't know what I'm saying. The brainstorm just turned into a brain blizzard and froze my neurons. Leaving now.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 2/21/2006 4:51 PM

As I've said before, I love watching the creative process unfold. BTW, it always seemed to me that the 30 days program you were trying to follow might be way too structured. I try to teach my students to "let it flow."


Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 2/21/2006 6:44 PM

I think as a whole it was too structured for me for this project. I was feeling "tight" and anxious to begin with. On a different project it might be just the ticket. I will probably even use elements of it for Voice of Crow.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 2/21/2006 7:25 PM

"Nutmeg" doesn't sound strange. I completely understand the nutmeg analogy.

Posted by: Blogger Sharon GR at 2/22/2006 11:22 AM

Have you ever been hit with a jar of nutmeg? I mean, really pegged, right in the eye socket?

It hurts like cumin, lemme tell ya.

Posted by: Blogger Rob S. at 2/22/2006 1:03 PM

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