Monday, February 1, 2010

Internal Movies, Chaos Theories, Seasonal Vegetables, Twitter talk and Vanessa Carlton...


...aka: The ingredients of an ordinary writing day...




And hopefully you'll get why all those things are related to my story as we go along...

Let's start at the beginning of the list, shall we? I always know when a story is starting to come together. How do I know? Because it starts to play like a movie in my head. I can see the characters. I can hear their voices, see their facial expressions, where they are, what their surroundings look like. It becomes very real to me. And folks, the good news is, that's where I am right now!

Irresistible (WT) is the movie now showing in my head. WOO-HOO!

So how did that happen? Well, to me, as with most writers I suspect, a story is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. We start collecting the pieces; characters, setting, themes, plot, etc.,etc. and once we have an idea of the 'grand picture', we mix the pieces up again and then pull from the jumbled pile as and when we need to. Theoretically we should end up with something pretty darn close to the original picture we may have sold to an editor or agent when/if we pitched the story idea, but unlike a standard jigsaw puzzle, the pieces can be inter-changeable. Fight that quality at the storytelling stage and we can not only miss out on some pretty special moments of clarity, we can also screech to a painful halt. I think that's been a lot of my problem in the last few months; I've been fighting changes the story wanted me to make, paths it wanted me to follow...

I've used the butterflies forming a heart picture to demonstrate what I mean by that because apart from the fact I like the image of pieces of the puzzle fluttering in when you might not have expected them to, I also think it's pretty apt from the POV of the analogy of a butterfly beating its wings in one place having a ripple effect somewhere else in the universe. You know what I'm talking about, right? It's the butterfly effect. A chaos theory which says:

"...small differences in the initial condition of a dynamical system may produce large variations in the long term behavior of the system."

Translated into Trish terms, one of the butterflies in that picture is a piece of the puzzle that makes up my story. When another - unexpected - butterfly of an idea flutters in, it can often have an effect on all the other butterflies. They all flap their wings, they move about, and sometimes they settle into a picture I wasn't expecting. Thing is, it might seem chaotic to some, but it's kind of a writers job to stay open to new ideas. It's also their job to make sense of somewhat chaotic, seemingly unconnected ideas. And with a little luck, the picture we end up with is better than the one we had in mind at the start...

Take the scene I'm currently working on. It has my hero and heroine meeting up in Union Square, Manhattan and proceeding to the farmers market. I therefore Googled images of the farmer's market to give me some visuals to work from. First thing that struck me, apart from the contrast between the city in the background and the country produce laid out in the stalls? The colors. Bright, vibrant colors that contrast with the traditional colors associated with the city. Those colors played on my mind, quite possibly because I've been re-decorating my bathroom of late. Work with me here, I'm not as crazy as I might sound. Well, mostly...

My bathroom is being decorated in black and white. White walls, white bathroom suite, black tiles on the floor, black and white towels. You get the picture. Meanwhile, while being confronted by those monochrome colors the usual number of times nature and a writers intake of coffee and Diet Coke demands during the day, the colors of that market continued to haunt me. Then, when I was thinking about the contrasts between my hero and heroine, it occurred to me that she was the monochrome personality whereas he was those bright, vibrant colors. Out of nowhere, a line of dialogue appeared in my head. It was my heroine talking about how everything in her life had been viewed in black and white before she met my hero, but since she met him, she's seeing life in Technicolor - and now she doesn't want to go back to the way her life was before him...

SUDDENLY it MADE SENSE.

So I started thinking about the effect my hero would have on my heroine's life. The physical attraction was there from the start. Let's face it, thats always important in a love story. Naturally, we have them fight the inevitable some. While we do, we get to build the sexual tension. Since changing my hero, I've made him a carpenter who restores old buildings and makes one-off pieces of furniture. Apart from the fact that makes an immediate connection between my hero and a man who is 'good with his hands', it also allowed me to play with one of the five senses outside of the bedroom; in this case touch. With all the vibrant colors at the farmer's market allowing me to play with sight (especially since my heroine lives nearby but has never been there), I started to think about other ways my hero could add color to her life and play with the senses to add to the sexual tension. Scent from the produce, flowers and anything that might be cooking there. Sounds from the vendors and any street musicians who might be busking for the crowd. Taste...

Ooooh... now THAT I could have fun with! If I had the faintest idea what kind of seasonal produce might be there and what it might taste like. Which I didn't... so I Tweeted about it... and got feedback from my Twitter friends within SECONDS. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Twitter?!

I now have a TONNE of information on seasonal vegetables, what a great many of the ones I haven't tried taste like and the sights and sounds of a farmers market, Stateside. Let's face it, food can be a sensual experience. Add a giant dollop of sexual tension as my hero introduces my heroine to tastes and textures she's never experienced before and... well... this scene could be every bit as sexy as the dance scene was. *fingers crossed*

During that Twitter conversation, I mentioned that season-wise I'd needed it to be cool enough temperature-wise for my heroine to wear a coat. Something else that hadn't fluttered into my brain with little beating wings until I saw this picture of Olivia. It's a very un-Olivia-like coat was my first thought. Then I had to ask myself why, and why she was wearing if it wasn't really her. Having done that, I had my hero do the same thing. Blake being Blake he recognized it as a man's coat. When he did, he commented on it and wasn't happy he'd 'gone fishing'. So what was the deal with the coat? Well, like I said on Twitter, that's kind of a long story. I also commented that it's use wasn't dissimilar to the miniature compass I had in One Night With The Rebel Billionaire. The same could be said about the friendship bracelet and ring Adam wore in that story. And I have a theory on this. I think everything a person chooses to wear not only tells us something about them, it also has a story behind it. Where did it come from? Does it have sentimental value? Why? If it's something that was bought then there might not be much of an answer to 'why did they buy it?' beyond 'they needed it', but there's where did they buy it, what frame of mind were they in, how much did they spend, who was with them, what else happened that day? The answers to those questions can again tell us something about them we might not have known. In Olivia's case, little does my hero know it, that coat is the key to why she lives her life in such a rigidly controlled, black and white manner.

Mid-Twitter conversation, my lovely separated-at-birth, cyber twin Donna Alward (who I don't pay to say these things) thanked me for reminding her about the "little arcs" that make a character's development so memorable. She thinks I'm a great one for symbolism that echoes through arcs. While blushing that she thinks I'm that smart, I had to confess I'm not. That stuff just kinda flutters in when I let my mind wander, it's not planned, BELIEVE ME. I think if I tried planning it, I'd once again be trying to stick rigidly to the original image I had of the story instead of allowing it to grow and spread its wings along the way. But Donna being the Donna I love who can hit the nail on the head pretty much every damn time (is that a Canadian thing???) - and who obviously knows me too well - answered my not-that-smart confession with; "Yes but you see it and then make sure it's threaded through so it's consistent."

And she's right. I do. *must remember to check my house for secret cameras* Everything happens for a reason, right? Add that to everything that's there must be there for a reason and there comes a point when you can take a thread of something and weave it through the story, picking up on the theme brought to you from seemingly random pieces of information that may seem chaotic to some. In the Orson Scott Card book 'Characters and Viewpoint', (yes, I'm still reading it), he talks about how writers must cast a net into the world for ideas. The larger the net, the more ideas may be caught. I think we HAVE to be that open. The pantster in me could never go looking for ideas with a fly fishing rod seeking to hit one specific target. My aim isn't always true. But give me a big net and nine times out of ten, I can sift through the catch to find something I can use. Toss out the tiddlers, the ones that don't fit the criteria I'm looking for and anything that might stretch the realms of reality too far and I can usually find something worthwhile in whatever is left. When I do, I RUN with it - back through the scenes I've already written and all the way to the finish line.

How do I know it's the right thread, theme or symbolism for the story? I just do. Wish I had a more technical explanation than that, but I don't. I just know. Maybe simply because when I find it, it makes sense of my chaotic thoughts, the proverbial light-bulb pings and suddenly there's a movie playing in my head. Add the right 'theme tune' to the mix, with words that perfectly convey the story I'm trying to tell and... well... TA-DA!



So there you have it, that's how everything is slotting together. ROLL CALL TIME! How's everyone doing? Writing coming along nicely? Stuck on something? Any random thoughts slotting together for you? Let me know!

And if you're not already on Twitter... see what you've been missing? ;)

10 comments:

Donna Alward said...

Aw, I got quoted!

It's true though. My fave is still the t-shirts.

It did make me realize something I'd intended for this story that I kind of dropped the ball on and now need to layer in. I am going to be pushing it on word count I fear!

And you are at 33k plus? Damn. You can thank both my editors for keeping me from adding to mine for the first few days of this week anyway....is there some sort of conspiracy?

Sally Clements said...

Great post Trish. I know exactly what you mean about the butterfly ideas fluttering in, it happens to me too, when my writing is flowing well and I'm really well in to the story. Looking forward to reading this one, and glad everything is going well.

Anonymous said...

A terrific post Trish. Enjoyed it enormously and yes, learned from it too! Suffice it to say that I think (in my humble opinion) that you have a highly intelligent approach to your craft, peppered with colour, wit and wisdom and yes, that unknown factor which for want of a better word I'll just label spontaneity ... Not, quite the correct word but it will have to do.

Delighted to hear that *things* and writing are going so well.

And your bathroom sounds good too!

pp in the ROI

Janet said...

What an interesting post! I love the image of the ideas fluttering in.

"How's everyone doing? Writing coming along nicely? Stuck on something? Let me know!"

:) Well, seeing as you asked...

My recent rejection letter said: "concentrate on building up the motivation and conflict so that it is just about the hero and heroine, and external characters or impetuses are left out."

So in planning my new story I've been concentrating on the H and h's emotional goals, motivation and conflict, but I have hardly any external plot.

Trish, are external plots as necessary as they used to be? (In many of the published books in the Romance line, the characters often begin the story with external goals then these goals quickly fall by the wayside and the emotional stuff quickly takes over becomes the main story.

I'm worried that if I don't have much external plot my story will be boring, but the editor's comment suggests I maybe rely on it too much so I'm not sure if I've gone to the other extreme with this one.

Should I aim for an equal balance between external and internal? Or am I on the right track in concentrating almost exclusively on the internal stuff?

Aideen said...

Trish,

I'm just over the moon to hear that things are working so well for you right now. It really is wonderful to come by here and see you blogging like your usual happy self. I love it!!

Keep up the good work,
Aideen.

Trish Wylie said...

You don't just get quoted because I love you, Donna! There are times it's like you're INSIDE MY HEAD. That's probably a scarier thought for you than it is for me, mind you...

Ahhh the T-Shirts. They were another late addition you know. And so much fun to do!

I've just been doing some layering too ;) And LOL to the word-count, because I have a feeling this one is going to go over. Been a looooonnngggg while since that happened.

Must. Catch. Up. With you on the word count. I see you're RACING ahead now!

Trish Wylie said...

Thanks Sally! I love it when those ideas flutter in too. Feels like it's been a long. LONG time since they last did. Darn it. But hey, at least they're here now, right? Better late than never...

Fingers crossed this one makes it past my long-suffering editor when it IS done. It feels very much like I'm starting my writing career all over again!

Trish Wylie said...

Hello again my friend pp! What a LOVELY thing to say! Not sure about the intelligent part though ;) Can't tell you how many times per MS I have a Homer Simpson 'DOH!' moment. Writing is a bit like life, I suppose. There are things you're supposed to know after a while, mistakes you've made before that you SHOULD have learned from, but does it stop us from making the same mistakes again? Erm... no....

And I think my bathroom has the potential to be lovely. Y'know... if I ever get off my ass and finish it... Suffice to say tile cutting around funny shaped objects? Not. My. Greatest. Talent.

Trish Wylie said...

Such a GREAT question, Janet that I've dedicated an entire blog post to one of my usual long winded answers ;) Hope it helps!

Trish Wylie said...

AIDEEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How ARE you?! Have missed you honey! I hear GREAT THINGS about your writing from Maisey, who is my new Twitter-buddy :)