The novel deadline is coming up. Thursday. I need an expanded synopsis and a first chapter to enter the next round of the contest (and a chance to be one of five people who get a thousand bucks and write the whole novel…for a chance at ten thousand and publications). Work is in full time progress and the deadline is buzzing at my ear like pregnant flies.
One of the metaphors I use for the “research” stage of a story is investigation. Figuring out the plot and who is involved in that plot and how it is told and lots of thousands of more subtly nuanced questions, is solving a mystery. Only you get to choose the paths that your investigation takes. The clues lead you to other clues and then to decisions and its as if the trail existed for you to follow all along, as if it wasn’t random.
You follow clues in song lyrics and anecdotes and memories and movies and literature. Day dreams become hard data with poignant leads. Accents and road maps and ghost stories are forensic evidence. Characters from books and film become witnesses and suspects. You gather the clues and the story and the people take shape.
Today was the last day of my investigation. So it was busy. Lots of leg work. I go to places where my suspects hang out – like bookstores and libraries and the internet. I bring along my utility belt…well, it’s more of a bag (satchel is the right term), my old friend, my uncomplaining Watson. Inside is my investigation kit which, at the moment, contains [I’m rummaging through it right now]: few books, my little leather journal, pens, my synopsis, a pocket rhyming dictionary (you never know), Advil (for headaches) and a condom for…wait a sec…why do I…uh…never mind…
I had to talk with my informant, Poe – had to visit the crime scene at the Rue Morgue – talked with an opium fiend and asked him why he was so obsessed with the lady Ligeia – asked a monomaniac why he had pulled out the teeth of Berenice – went to Key West to ask a self proclaimed Baron why he stole the body of his “beloved” and lived with it for years – visited Sin City and asked Marv why he went up against all odds for a dead hooker named Goldie, sat in the rain and listened to how Sin City folk talked, watched the action to see how noir and pulp mysteries play out – read up on the order of proceedings during crime scene investigations and autopsies – talked with forensic pathologists – conversed with a caravan of Yugoslavian Gypsies about their belief that pumpkins left outside to rot, become vampires – got a first hand account of the effects of excessive absinthe consumption…
…and all of these led me to a place.
My other metaphor for the research stage is Grave-digging. With a mad scientist’s planning, I dig up all sorts of body parts…character quirks, voices, arms, legs, metaphors, phrases, rhyme schemes, an eyeball, a brain. I tend to right stories in chunks, rather than straight through. Maybe I figure out a paragraph in the middle before I write the beginning. Maybe I write the end first. I gather these pieces together. I dig in my old journals and sometimes old stories for characters or anecdotes or strange facts that don’t have a permanent home yet. I take all these bits and sew them together. Then, I throw the switch. Revision is the process of making the stitch marks more seamless until you’d never know. Frankenstein made his mistake when he thought he could get a beautiful being out of his first draft. Lazy bastard…
Well. I’ve got the mystery. Got the body parts. Time to assemble them together…at least for a first chapter (we’ll call that the head). I’ll sew it together tomorrow night and put a brain in it and throw the switch sometime on Thursdays before I email the monster in.
But the sun is up and it’s time to sleep now.
I’ve got grave dirt everywhere…
LOVED this post Josh. You are a great writer! Good luck with the novel!!!
thank you 🙂
You’re gonna kick ass all over the place.
Then I’ll have to clean it up….ass all over the place (in the walls and ceiling) can really stink up the place on the 3rd day.
I like your gravedigging idea. you may have mentioned it before…but something about it made me think of that Patchwork Girl CDROM I was going to let you see. That is the interactive–hypertext, sorry, rewrite of Frankenstein by Shelley Jackson (actually, the way she puts it is Mary Shelley Shelley Jackson…very odd duck, that one). I think you’d like it. Next time you are around, remind me (unless I remember) and i’ll let ya take it with ya…I don’t think I’ll ever need it again… 🙂
oh yeah, i have every confidence that you will do very well in this competition. best of luck with everything 🙂
Thanks man. Appreciated.