Finish the Work

I like planning a story. Drawing maps, designing costumes, sketching character profiles. At my most extra, I will make touchstone objects for a story; a character’s favorite sweater, a pair of goggles with wire mesh lenses, a tee shirt stamped with a swarm of bats. At this stage, before everything coalesces, it is easy to play with a story’s design. The beats aren’t cemented in place, the thing is nebulous and sparkling. It’s easy to love a dream.

The writing is harder. First drafts are especially difficult, because I am forced to confront all the spaces the dream washes out. How does character get from knowing their antagonist to hating them? How does their sidekick go from annoyed acquaintance to best friend? Outlines will provide some structure, but there are places in the story that I won’t know about until we get there.

There are places in the story where I will have to hang a curtain between this world and the one I am writing, and ask that you not look behind that curtain. There are some things I can’t import into the story’s world. Many more things that I wish to exclude. As much as I am writing a world, one woman can’t be an entire universe.

I can only masquerade as one.

When I begin to pin down my story in a first draft, it loses its depths. It looks as thin as that curtain, and I worry it will tear at its first reading. My big nebulous shining thing, with all its maps and props, looks very little like the thing I wrote.

But notes and props and maps are very boring without a story to go along with them. And I can’t edit what isn’t written.

Because the trick to story telling isn’t in the props. Depth comes later, when I have a first draft, and I can tease its structure into three dimensions. I need to finish the work, and then its time to share.

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I’ve listened to some really great stories lately. Keyan Bowes wrote a beautiful love story about research funding and the intelligence of octopuses. You can listen to Octonet on Escape Pod.

And I am Fire, I am Tears by Wendy Nikel is on Podcastle. It’s got cursed sisters and dragons and untrustworthy husbands. It felt like a lost fairy tale, a favorite one, that had just been rediscovered.

Props and Costume

I am gathering objects for a new story.

They are not all physical.  Some can’t be, because their magic does not manifest properly in this dimension.  Most won’t be, because I don’t have the stamina to learn blacksmithing or gem cutting or bonsai for a novella.

But I am collecting descriptions of these objects in a notebook, so that I will have them when the story needs them.

I love important objects in stories. I know I’ve written about them before in the blog.  I’ve even written a short story about their makers. Physical objects give weight to a story. You can feel a crystal doorknob in your hand, or a warm jacket around your shoulders, or a favorite tee shirt with a collar that rests just right below your neck.  I want things that can be touched, because that touch will ground me in the fantastic.

So I’m building a prop shop.  Or, rather, I had built a prop shop about two years back, and now I’m restocking it.

Crystal Doorknob with spotty brass fittings.

Robins egg blue suit jacket, double breasted, cut perfectly for a 5’11” heavy set woman in her fifties. Very dashing.

Costume tiara, bent, missing three of its plastic jewels.

Comb disguised as a flick-knife, one chestnut hair caught in its hinge.

Soft gray cotton tee shirt, worn thin from countless washings, patterned with a colony of bats in flight.

Space suit, far future, made for someone very tall.  Sanitation department badges on chest and sleeves.

 

I get lost in scenes sometimes, unable to write down what is important because in your head it all seems very important.  But it helps to have something specific to look at.  Something that will catch a character’s eye, center the scene, and allow the action to unfold.

And sometimes it helps to get into character, when you’re wearing a soft tee shirt covered in bats, and a silly broken tiara.

 

 

May Inflict Stop on Robots

Yesterday I and my dad built one of Lucca’s guns from Chrono Trigger.  I followed the design as much as I could to replicate it in wood.  After much band saw work, some glue and far more sanding than my knuckles would have liked, I have this!

It still needs some detail work and the gold paint, but it looks pretty close.

In any case, I think it will look a lot better than cobbling together something out of toilet paper rolls about two weeks before PAX.