Every now and then, a writer needs to research something for a project. Maybe an article, maybe a book, but even when it comes to fiction, the more realistic everything is, the more accessible the piece is to the reader. Hopefully readers don’t just read what you write, hopefully they experience it. After a long time away from fiction, I have been getting back to what was my foundation in writing years before, and what I focused on in school… Hello, Fiction!
So at the beginning of this year I had a list of story/book ideas. Some were flashes of inspiration I wrote down. Others were ideas I had been toying with for years, but trying to figure out how to make them work, or in some cases they were already outlined, and while I knew what happened in the story, and how to get it where it needed to go, I have yet to be moved to write it. I have too many ideas, so it is the loudest one, the idea that grabs me by the hair, and screams, “WRITE ME NOW!” that I actually commit to. And while I had a list full of ideas, I didn’t have any screamers through all of January and the first week or so of February.
But then right before Valentine’s Day weekend an idea occurred to me, and I quickly dismissed it. It was absolutely ridiculous I thought. It wasn’t a book idea itself, but rather an angle to an idea I keep trying to work out. It was intriguing, but among those I thought I would epically fail at. It wasn’t fantasy, but it kind of was. It wasn’t creating a new world, yet it played with rewriting history and certain beliefs, and this character was in my mind, but I thought that she was too mature for young readers and not mature enough for adults. Because you know, I can’t help the editor in me sometimes and I look at, “Is this something someone else would want to read? Who?”
But this woman kept appearing, and suddenly her voice invaded my thoughts, particularly in the shower, which is usually my think time. Do you know how annoying it is to have someone else horde in on your thoughts, when it is supposed to be the one time a day no one can bother you, no one can interrupt. But she kept interrupting me!
So, I decided to not dismiss her and her story automatically, but to think on it, and on her. And oh my God, the things that I thought! It was one thought after another, no scratch that ten thoughts simultaneously, fighting for room before the next ten thoughts shoved them away.
Each thought and idea flew by so fast, and yet I retained the ones that mattered. And they started connecting to each other, and paving a path, a story, a chronology, from the origins to the obstacles, relationships between characters, scenes that didn’t seem important and why they were, conversations that make you cheer, and unveil these people for who they really are and what they believe, and the actions, shenanigans and “wtf” moments that every great story needs and here they were all at once, saying, “Do you get it yet? WRITE ME NOW!”
And who am I to argue with that? And so I am, but not the book, rather I’m writing the extras – the things that will probably never go into an actual manuscript, but that are still so incredibly important to the book because they help me understand these people and not only what they believe, but why. I’m not just seeing them, I am them and they are a part of me. And wow! This has never happened before – ever!
And after I wrote the prologue to the actual manuscript, and started a scene, new ideas flooded me regarding the main character’s motivations and the how’s and why’s of it were amazing. And then I realized, I needed to know this character’s true origins, and that of her family, because this book could boil down to the FIRST dysfunctional family ever to exist. And it tickled me.
Suddenly I checked out ten books from the library, ranging from books geared towards kids to academic books many college professors wouldn’t dream of asking their students to look at. And I immersed myself in the knowledge and the varying accounts and the people – I drank it all in, and I’m still thirsty, but every passage and account I read seemed to push me forward – I wasn’t just retelling this small piece of history, I was making it my own. I was taking “facts” and coloring them with all sorts of colors, like what really happened, who was involved, what they were like, and why. Because why is sometimes the thing that matters most.
And I realized that even though I was thigh deep (I literally bury myself in all of the books to compare accounts among other things) in research – I realize I am having a blast. And while I couldn’t call myself a writer and be anti-research, I admit it usually isn’t my favorite thing. But I’m not surprised I’m having a good time at the moment. This was a subject that fascinated me as a child. Heck, not just as a kid, but from the ages of seven to fourteen. And then I grew up, or real life happened, or I was distracted, but for whatever reason the magic of the material faded into the background. And now I realize that it never actually left, it was just biding its time, waiting for the right moment for it to make a triumphant return.
And it has – oh it has. And I am so excited!
I’m a nerd, getting my research on, writing, creating and tweaking, blending the real with the imaginary. Is this what a meant-to-be story feels like?