By the way I hurry by my GOTS project papers you’d think I was avoiding the whole thing. You might be partially right. It seems I’m much more comfortable writing about working on it than I am actually tackling it. See, here I am blogging.
Why is this? It’s partially that I am consistently reminded (whether or not it’s correct remains to be seen) that this project is going to challenge me on every level.
PERFECT rearing its ugly little head? One clue may be that I never feel capable of doing it justice. But then I don’t work on it, so of course I fail that task. Is it this simple?
It’s taken me two weeks to realize that considering asking for lightning strikes for projects unrelated to this is a bad idea as it would only serve to distract me from that which is making me uncomfortable. Better to just get to the marrow.
I’m not really the kind of person to turn everything into some sort of personal, emotional drama, so forgive me as I try to shake myself out of it by giving play-by-play details. It just turns out that I think more clearly in writing and that it’s usually writing that helps me recognize that there’s a path out of whatever dark forest I’ve wandered into. The writing creates the path, perhaps.
The job for me now is to spend the next two days honing in on what element of the story has me stuck (and scrabbling to escape) and then look for a lightning strike to break the bond.
I sometimes wonder if I’m expecting too much this early. I don’t have many personal details about my main character, but I have some critical ones. I don’t have many details about the situation she finds herself in, but there is a critical change that occurs that sets the whole thing off. But I still feel lost because I don’t know what other characters are necessary or what’s really supposed to happen in huge chunks of the story.
What I really need is a stretch of uninterrupted time and a sworn promise from myself that I will not get up to clean the bathroom, the oven, or decide to organize part of the garage. Even though all those things need to be done.
So far what has worked to just get ideas out there is the clustering. So I think I’ll relax about the number of clustered pages I create and let them keep coming. At least there’s that (though I fear I’ll be swamped with the unorganizable after this).
The idea for GOTS was conceived in 2010, on my second run through How to Think Sideways. The first attempt (called The Bird Story) ended with me realizing that though I loved the premise and though the characters were charming, I was not loving the idea of writing a kids’ chapter book. I enjoyed reading them with my kids, but was finding myself simultaneously bored and hemmed in by the restrictions of a young audience. So lightning struck with GOTS not long after making the decision to drop the project. Some time after I read the Grimm’s fairy tale, The Frog Prince, my Muse-mind said, “I like fairytale retellings, hint, hint,” and I listened. GOTS itself is VERY loosely based on the fairytale; the primary relationship is that the fairytale provided the seed of an idea and I ran in another direction. But my Muse was good with that.
Originally my main character was a young girl – she started out around five or six years old because of what I assumed to be the necessity that she not be too psychologically distant from the fairytale realm. I also located the story in the Central Valley of California. As I was planning, she kept getting older, wavering around ten or eleven. Likewise, I couldn’t get the setting to cooperate fully. After a hiatus where I found myself challenged again by my inability to inculcate good boundaries while my kids were on summer vacation, I revisited the idea and found that I had resistance to the story for some important reasons. I didn’t love the location one bit and my main character was not a young child even though I kept trying to make her so.
I didn’t give up at that point, though – something I might have done with an earlier attempt. Instead I started asking questions and to my surprise and joy answers arrived. “Remember,” said my Muse, “that I really like myths?” I nodded. “Well,” he said, kindly not calling me doofus, “what is your mythic city?” And I realized that one of the locations I’d love to write into a story is San Francisco.
This is important because place-ness and landscape intersect boldly with meaning making in my perception of the world and so story setting is one of the things I can’t ignore or gloss over. It remains to be seen if I can create dialogue and scenes with great conflict with the enthusiasm I hold for landscape symbolism. San Francisco, it turns out, is even the city I dream in.
Simply switching out Stockton for San Francisco, a five/six/ten year old for a sixteen/seventeen year old, and contemporary times for the 1930s has me reinvigorated about GOTS and has my Muse willing to talk to me.
If I can maintain that, I’m happy.