p. 5 In which Brooks describes the only life I have ever known:
Writers are not all here, because a part of them is always "over there" - "over there" being whatever world they are writing about at present. Writers live in two worlds - the real world of friends and family and the imaginary world of their writing. [...] Each is compelling in its own way and each makes its demands on a writer's time. But a writer can't leave either for very long [...]
p. 6 Writers need their writing; they need their imaginary worlds in order to find peace in, or make sense of, the real world.
This = me. This is also why I can never remember where I put my phone. Living in multiple worlds makes it really hard to keep track of minor details, however important they may be in the long-run.
p. 66 In which Brooks explores where his ideas come from:
It isn't thinking so much as it is dreaming. But all things begin with dreaming.
In this section, he goes on to explain how the advice he received from Lester del Rey was to spend time dreaming about an idea for a good long while before ever writing anything down.
Compared to other writers I know who chart and list and graph, I must seem like a pretty spontaneous (or "pantser" as WriMo folk say) writer. But I won't commit a word to even a scrap piece of paper until I've walked through the emotional journey of my characters. I do a lot of laps around the house when I'm alone, I natter, I cry, I'll get angry at no one at all. Nothing frightens my husband more than catching me going through an emotional whirlwind of someone else's pain - especially when I can't put into words what's wrong, because really, nothing is, I'm fine. In fact, I've made my connection with my character, so even though I'm hyperventilating, things are going great!
p. 90 In which Brooks explains his methods for planning:
If an idea doesn't stick with me for more than twenty-four hours, it probably wasn't all that hot in the first place.
Oh, the debates I've had over this very notion! I cringe when folks tell me about their "idea books" that they keep updating, or the 3-10 first drafts that they're simultaneously working on. My rule is far greater than 24 hours. Usually it has to wait until my current project is done, which pushes it away for at least a month, or I have a priority list in my head of ideas that have become back-logged, and I'm very weary of line jumpers. Freakhouse scared me because it shouted at me so loudly that it was budging to the front of the line. I believe it was Confessions of a Devil that was supposed to be written for that NaNo event, but Freakhouse was practically assembling its own pieces throughout the summer, so by November, I let it through. Ethereal is not such a success story. My first dream-based story, so I had a few strong emotions attached to it, and since I wasn't sure if I was doing Camp NaNoWriMo, I figured I had nothing to lose jumping in last minute with a last minute story idea. Waste of everyone's time! Confessions of a Devil I plan to salvage. Ethereal, well, it needs some serious patches to its foundations, or just to be demolished entirely to make room for something else. I like the title. Gas-based alien lovers? Yeah, not so much.
And then I just got so absorbed that I couldn't stop to consider how to break down the content in a quotable format without just scanning the pages and pasting them here. So here I will put some of my other connections and reflections.
Beginning and Endings: Brooks talks about how invaluable is it to solidify these two major components of any story. Well, I chalk this back up to planning and dreaming. As I mentioned earlier, I don't write a single shred of a note until I've made a very personal connection with the characters. I couldn't even if I tried. You see, there's a very strange shared space of "invention" and "listening". Clearly I must be responsible for some of the invention somewhere since I'm the one who chooses the words to put on the page. But I never really believe that I "make up" stories.
I meet characters, sometimes I need to meet them for the first time in several intervals, making small-talk that may or may not get anywhere. I don't feel it is always me assessing them, rather than it is me being the one assessed. If I am chosen as worthy enough to hear what the character has to say, we begin a phase of mutual possession. They walk with me through my life as I walk with them through theirs. Again, as Brooks stated in his book, real world and dream world go hand-in-hand, often simultaneous and seamless. I open up my vulnerability to them and sometimes they return the favour. This is probably why I can have such strong reactions, the emotions of two complete people are inhabiting the same body, the same mental space, neither one trying to control the other, simply sharing space, sharing experience, memories, hopes, dreams, everything. When I know who is important in their lives, for better or worse, I sometimes get to meet those people too, and then I get to see the complexities of being human and the limitations of perspective.
For example, from Freakhouse, I could see how Dotan perseved Jos and Blue, but those understandings he had were, of course, not always the whole picture when I got to walk through the same world with a new host. Jos had the whole outside world to bring in with him, all of his expectations of how things would play out, and his reactions to his reality were strong, even if he kept them hidden from Dotan. Blue observed far more than Dotan ever gave him credit for, and his true feelings, though also rarely exposed, ran so deep. Walking through the lives of these characters, not to mention Bear, Froggy, Marlene, was painful because of all of the hurt they lived through every day. Without this, without feeling like I, too, was falling apart, I never would have written it. This is what I meant when I said that it budged in line. I thought in my head that Confessions of a Devil deserved to be written next; it had come first, after all. But the weight of all of those feelings would not leave. Dotan and his friends had dumped those raw emotions down on me and they weren't going anywhere until I had somewhere to put them. That's when I started the physical planning. The notes. The lists. But the story was already there. I had already walked through it. My job in the physical planning is exactly what Terry Brooks said: the Beginning and the End. Knowing that I was telling Dotan's story, it was easy to locate where the best place to begin would be, and where it needed to go. In my opinion, it fit the narrative well, even if Dotan thought otherwise.
The Rest of the Story: Brooks doesn't use this phrase exactly, but he did make mention of how important it is to plan so that you know more about the characters than what you could (or should) possibly put into one book. I feel my Dreaming is this extensive. I won't write without an ending, without knowing how it goes.
Freakhouse was a different experience for me because while I was shown how the book would end, Dotan became very silent about the events that followed, and of course, I was very curious, especially since I had begun writing and didn't comfortable not knowing for myself what happened next, even if I was happy to leave the story on the note that I did. I've talked about this in other posts, so I won't go into great detail here, but the point it that Dotan and I had to get into a whole new level of vulnerable in order to walk through the rest of the story. I was trying to take too much control. I had my book ending and, in my mind, everything was rooted. I believe it was my inflexibility at that time that made Dotan shut down. I had left him at his lowest low, and while I sympathized, I was too absorbed into writing to really listen. Perhaps I betrayed our mutual agreement by getting angry at him for not hosting me the rest of the way, as if he owed me because, damn it, I'm writing your story! This does not make for great diplomacy.
I spent weeks shouting at him for being so immature about it. It wasn't until I gave in and started offering what I thought to be implausible hypothetical solutions that I stumbled upon something I had considered before, but immediately dismissed. I gave it another look. Just giving it that second glance brought Dotan back to me. It was like he was peeking over my shoulder as I discovered the fine print hidden in an old record book. He didn't say anything, he just waited with bated breath for my light bulb to finally turn on. It did. For the first time in a long while, we stopped fighting. He smiled at me and said, "Now you're getting it." And I did, though I was still in shock that it actually might work. Nevertheless, Dotan let me back in and we walked through the rest of it. None of these events are seen in Freakhouse, but I couldn't have reached the book's ending without seeing what lay beyond.
Okay, maybe this is even a little too crazy for Terry Brooks, but so far our destinations seem to be the same, even if our paths are a little different.
"You Can See The Whole World" As I described above, I believe that I can. I believe that I have no business writing if I don't. The thought that this can get lost along the way scares me. Yes, my head might get a little less crowded, but I don't mind. I'm happy to sit in silence and just listen to the stories around me and walk down paths that don't exist in my world. Brooks describes his grandson's observation as being the much-needed reminder about what it means to be a writer. Back to the initial comment about authors being people who publish, and writers being storytellers, I do wonder what I, personally, am ready for. I may not be a lawyer, but I, too have secured by practical job, because for me, stability is something I need more than anything. If I can't take care of myself, I don't trust that anyone else, even sheer dumb luck, will save me. But as I see myself sacrificing more of what I love for what I know is the right thing to do, I am wondering, at this point, where I have shed my title of "youth" and enter the gates of "all grown up", if this really is an all or nothing gig. What will I regret more? What am I willing to lose? Why can't I "see the whole world" on these spontaneous imaginary adventures and live my real-life dreams, too? The older I get, the more I see dreams cast aside, or I look on with a mix of envy and pity for those who have cast everything else away to live their dreams and are now trying to find a way into adulthood to catch-up with everyone else.
I look at all I have accomplished with my life, and I have to say that I've done everything right. And yet, I also feel like I'm shutting these doors to the other world. "Come back later when I have time to deal with you."
p.6 The muse whispers to you when she chooses, and you can't tell her to come back later, because you quickly learn in this business that she might not come back at all. I fear you more than any specter I have seen. I understand what Brooks means when he says that writing is breathing. It's like there's not enough air if I don't have both doors to both worlds open at the same time. It's November now, it's the time that I allow myself to write. And yet last year I slammed the other door shut because I just couldn't take it anymore. What does that make me if I'm a writer who can't write? What kind of life does that leave me if I can't breathe in it?