Thursday, March 10, 2005

Running From the Past

Started filling out John's Character Development Worksheet today. Everything was going fine until I hit the question "What is the character's greatest secret?" and its close relative "What does he fear would happen if his spouse ever found out?" Much pondering and musing ensued.

Our greatest secrets tend to also be the source of our greatest fears, which in turn fire our greatest motivations. This quite often happens in the secrecy of our own subconscious minds. John's greatest secret engenders his greatest fear which is what drives him and keeps him so intensely involved in his work. He is running as hard as can, but he is soon going to find out that he can't escape.

What is it that he's running from? What drives him so hard? His past contains something so horrid, so evil that he won't even admit it to himself. What is it? Thomas knows. I sometimes hear him late at night whispering in my ear, my own personal Hannibal Lecter. His soft, seductive voice and impeccable reasonableness pull me inexorably forward toward the edge of the Pit. He wants me to look in and see the things that hide in the shadows, gibbering and capering with gleeful insanity.

I asked the Tarot and it told me "King of Cups, Reversed". A father or father-figure who is deceitful and untrustworthy. My mind immediately linked this up with "the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons unto the seventh generation". When I put this together with the undercurrent theme of betrayal that is evolving, I ran into a big "Uh-oh".

This is the part where I tend to back away and look for something more innocuous. I can't do that. Writers establish a relationship with their readers. We have to gain our reader's trust, their faith, if you will, that we will be honest with them. Unfortunately, I can't be honest with my readers unless I'm honest with myself. They will know, and once that rust is broken, it is almost impossible to re-establish. No matter how much I want to keep looking "through a glass, darkly", I must look, not into a mirror, but directly into my heart and soul with clear eyes and a firm resolve to face the monsters and bring them out into the light.

I consider myself a reasonably liberal free-thinker. I value honesty and candor. There are some subjects, however, that cause me to turn into a staunch, head-in-the-sand, denier of the truth. This is the kind of territory that I'm exploring right now. This is the scenario that keeps replaying itself in my mind:

John's family consisted of him, his father, and his older sister. His mother had died while he was still an infant, and his sister, 7 at the time, had raised him. Though nobody talked about how his mother had died, his father, and therefore his entire family, was treated as pariah by the community. Some secrets will just have to remain hidden for now.

When John was 9, his sister, now 16, became pregnant. She confided in John that their father had been having sex with her regularly since she was 10 and that the baby was his. She then ran away deep into the mountains. A few months pass. John and his father have always been practically strangers, and his father had only barely tolerated his presence in the house. With Sarah now gone, their discomfort with each other grew, and John lived in fear that his father might hurt or even kill him in a drunken rage. What actually happened was even worse. His father came to his bed one night…

"Raise the stakes", Maass says. Turn the screw. John and Maggie raised a daughter. She now has a five year old daughter. Children tend to follow in their parents' footsteps, especially children of abusers. This is going to get ugly. Every now and then I have to ask myself why I do this to myself. Because I'm there? Because I'm square? Because I'm the closest thing to Heaven…never mind. Because I must.

Ugh. That kind of thing really makes me feel slimy. I served on a jury once on a case where a father was accused of molesting his 5 year old daughter. It still haunts me. It was a mistrial, by the way, so we didn't have to decide. Whew!

"Father, if it be Thy will, let this cup pass from me…nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done."

On a side note: I have determined that John is a Leo and Maggie is a Cancer. Fire and Water, a volatile mix, to say the least. Deborah (new name is now official, for now) is an Air sign. Can you say "conflict"?

Another excellent plotting article

Again from PBW's list of plotting resources. Great stuff in there! This one is about using the Snowflake Process to develop your novel. Again, it doesn't fit my style exactly, but it appeals to the librarian part of me that longs to bring order to chaos. The "voice crying in the wilderness" part. That champion of lost causes I referred to a while back.

Anyway this article uses a top-down approach. Find your premise. Expand it into a sentence. Expand the sentence into a paragraph. Take each sentence in the paragraph and use it as the starting point for its own paragraph, turn each paragraph into a page. Etc., etc., etc. Continuous refinement until you have what amounts to a 50-page detailed outline. He also does a line-per-scene using Excel. Intriguing to some extent, but I much prefer to keep that in a Word document.

Back in my former life, when I had a mind, I wrote computer programs this way. It's a familiar technique, and one that will contribute something to my process, which is still evolving and probably will evolve forever. I'm glad to be reminded of it.

DUH!

Due to some manual dyslexia, I munged the link to my WIP page yesterday. Maybe this one will work? Thanks for letting me know, Debra! If only the damned computer would do what I want instead of what I say. :)

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