Monday, April 28, 2008

disaster as muse

I'm beginning to rely on narrative entropy to get The Secret to Love bouncing along the trail toward completion. As I ponder the verticality of my main character and her merry band of screwed up relatives, my natural tendency is to have her in that, as Steve Almond calls it, "man alone in a room," conundrum. I love delving into her motivations and ruminations as she bumbles along. Unpacking her deep scars with backstory.

But, alas, I'm having to trade some of that in. It's sort of like when I helped my ex-husband fix up and resell houses. I got into painting "effects". Sponge, rag, glaze. Stencils, sometimes. Sometimes checkerboard. Once, I painted with milk. The process of "treatment painting" fulfilled some sort of need for imposing design-graffiti on these houses that were so briefly mine. Okay, maybe with the stinky milk paint it was more akin to pissing on the fence posts.

At some point I realized that simply rolling out a room with whatever mistint was on sale at Miller was the more efficient way to go about preparing a house for the fast sell. And then, I lost the taste for ragged and sponged walls entirely. After that, each time I stepped into a room festooned with "treatment paint," the complexities and patterning and nuanced shapes embedded in the look became altogether too tedious to ponder.

And so it is with narrative.

Now, don't get me wrong, I will always be a fan of vertical characterization, to an extent. But, I've grown eager to see characters behave and react. Thus the onslaught of disaster in Secret to Love.

In part two of the book, there's an icy night on the eve of a major development. The next chapter (day), I was just going to get on with the forecasted event itself, when I realized I had set up an opportunity for a big messy situation—a tree cracking from ice and falling into the character's house. A lovely disaster, actually, near enough to Christmas and a big family gathering to set up more texture and torment and bad behavior amongst the characters.

I've left my day's writing mid-disaster, hoping that my puerile interest in messes re-ignites the muse tomorrow.

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