Mind mapping/clustering seems to be a good way to generate and record random half-thoughts that might eventually be used. Yesterday I spent some time mapping both what the Golden Gate Bridge means in this story and what’s important about the setting being San Francisco. I brought my SF map to Germany and yesterday looked it over – an exercise in both reminiscence and imagination.
With the map I was also able to think about whether or not it’s feasible to pull in a sunset seen from the East Bay, setting through the GGB. Just a thought I had – and I guess it would mean that at some point I’d need to determine where on the horizon (during which particular season) the sun actually appears to set… Probably too much research than I need to be getting into at this point, but I did write the possibility down on my cluster.
This morning I stepped away from physical objects and put down “Characters” as a central circle for a cluster and promptly stalled out. Maybe “Characters” is too broad for my creative mind – but I did something I’m learning to do more often and it helped. I opened up my cheap notebook and wrote out about being stumped by “Characters.” Eeventually I turned from that page and clustered a little about one of the main characters, asking questions and getting more detail.
Asking questions is key, especially, “What if…?” and simply writing out what’s in my mind, journal style seems to help. These are things that I need to be consciously aware of having in my toolbox. I’m also finding that though I recognize that such things as a “toolbox” with “tools” in it is symbolic, it helps to accord them a degree of imaginal or magical reality. I have a toolbox in my mind, and it’s in the studio of my mind where I work to bring words out into the world.
My next step is to continue with the clustering and then to go back and look through HTTS lessons (and walkthroughs) – backtracking a bit to make up for having pushed GOTS to the background.
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.