Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chew On This Research. Swallowing Comes Later.

I think I've visited every baby name and symbolism website known to mankind. Oh, and the most extensive database of Catholic Patron Saints. Ever. (Did you know there is a patron saint for dog bites?) Is this why it takes me what seems like a thousand moons to craft a novel? Is perfection so elusive that one superstitious wrong-turn of a key symbol or a character name has the potential to railroad the entire project?

This is the part of pre-writing I dislike. Nothing yet seems inevitable. Seldom does a location or secondary character name fall into my lap whole and perfect and ripe to enter the pages of my story. In the past twenty-four hours I've created entire government agencies and their subversive counterparts, invented a tattoo symbolic of said subversive group (a bizarre hybrid/reflection of well-known time symbols along with symbols of the group's nefarious intent) plopped a hundred year old seaside pier in North Carolina, divined an entire family of names that might be common eighty years from now (will classical still be in or will we all sound like Star-Trek walk-ons?) and birthed a heroine who is all the things I am not. None of my choices have gelled or settled into rightness, and I'm doubting each and every decision as if it were etched in granite.

So you'll understand my disorientation this week. I am at once on one of nine fictitious islands of monks named for Saint Giles, picking my way through a seaside port I've never visited, and studying the engineering behind turn-of-the-century Ferris wheels, all while wondering if I'm on the right path.

This makes me think of Stephen King's fossil analogy. In On Writing, he speculates that our stories already exist within us like a fossil waiting to be excavated, a skeletal foundation that can only be discovered slowly and precisely using instruments in the writer's toolbox. Somewhere deep inside my mind, the next novel, nay-the entire series, is there. Does that make them inevitable? Does this mean the choices we make as writers are already carefully crafted, awaiting the moment when light will reach them? Are our stories, then, fated to be ours or can we truly control their direction?

In five years, that fictional isle of monks will exist, not in some nebulous far-off glimmer, but in the absolute of my mind, through weeks and months of sweat and words. At what point is that transition? The end? Book three? The moment my feet sink into that fertile first chapter?

I'll let you know when I reach it.

Next week, along with my inaugural post over at the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood, I'll be tackling the fun part of my research: a mirrored fun-house. Alone.
Pictures? Count on it.

For now, tell me the best fictitious town name you've ever created or read about. Chewandswallow doesn't count. That's mine.


the walking man said...

Fools Falls Vermont. Hmmm now that I have a name I may just have to write a story about the place.

Vesper said...

I know what you mean, L.A., but this really is part of why we love to write, why we have to write.
And, yes, I think that our stories are indeed inevitable...

A mirrored fun-house? Looking forward to seeing that, even vicariously. :-)

Jen FitzGerald said...

How about Ten Riggs, Texas--a former oil boom town in West Texas, now just a small town along a lonely expanse of prairie.


laughingwolf said...

there's a town here in nova scotia called 'wolfville' [google it], i just may have to move there, should be fun, cuz acadia university is there... tons of material for writers, methinks ;)

as for a fictional one: maskaraid

Barbara Martin said...

Numa Valley, Washington, made up from an actual location in British Columbia named Numa Pass in the Kootenays.

I look forward to your fun house post. Don't get stuck in the hall of mirrors.

Miladysa said...

Ale and Cakes
Armed Knight
Badgers Mount
Upper Bleeding
Trotters Bottom

Why make them up when they really do exist here in the UK! ;0)

L.A. Mitchell said...

@walkingman - Love that name. That place-name could definately become a character :)

@Vesper - I'm not so love-hate now that my choices are settling. They seem like good ones.

@laughingwolf - maskearaid would be a great place in a story where all is not what it seems :)

@Barbara - I'll try not to. I'm hoping for pictures, but if I get 50 reflections of my backside, you people are out of

@Miladysa - I would adore living in a place with such a colorful name!! You Brits are inspired :)

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