Friday, September 18, 2009

Early notes for a novel

A portion of the brain of many writers is spent thinking about the possibilities of some form of paying job until the current work in progress pays off or as an income stream when the things currently paying off arrive in free copies or effusive thank-you letters from someone on the editorial staff of a not-for-profit publication.  Easy thoughts are such jobs as copywriting or proposal writing or technical writing because many impoverished writers have friends who do one or more of these while ironically wishing they had the freedom to write things for publications that pay off only in free copies and/or letters from persons on the staff of a not-for-profit publication.

Stage manager comes to mind as a good job, although it seems to be such a remarkably appropriate job for a writer that chances of securing such a position seem to cancel themselves out.  A traffic control person at an airport is another ideally suited job because a writer has to keep track of characters, know where they are at every turn of the drama.

These last two jobs are, in fact, what a writer does or, existentially, are what a writer had better become at some point in the career arc.  Characters are very much to be managed; we need to know what they've just come from, what their intentions are, and what their expectations are.  Those of us who create them in the first place need some sense of awareness to these items because it is a truth universally recognized that characters left to mill about without a task or specific set of expectations are  prime candidates for the cutting room floor--they do not make things happen nor do things happen to them.

One reason why there are few soliloquies is because a character on alone can have nothing done to him or her, nor can she or he expect to do anything but plotting which, by its very nature, is cerebral, which by its very nature is not very exciting.  We are set up to expect that Hamlet will set some mischief in motion when he tells us, The play's the thing in which I'll catch the conscience of the king."  And, okay, some anticipation, but when the play is being performed and the play is being enacted and one of the players pours poison into the ear of another, and we see more or less what Claudius did to his brother, we are not only not surprised when Claudius stops the performance with a bellow, "Give me some light," we are inside Hamlet's plans, privy to his intentions and his game.  

We cannot merely describe a plan, we must make it fester then disgorge before our eyes.  This is more than mere "Show, um, don't tell," this is giving full orchestration to the drama.  Accordingly, let us take this some steps forward, building as we go.  We already have the title in mind,The Secrets of Casa Jocasta, said house of mirth being a posh retirement facility with an equally posh demographic.  We know the character we want to be our Virgil through this Purgatorio of the Elderly, said character being a longtime friend.  We know the need to introduce opening velocity of such a nature that the characters will be engaged and in motion, buzzing with individual agenda.  Therefore you need to show your protagonist being pressured in a way that reflects who he is and what he is.  Suppose he is being pressured to accept an upgrade in his Casa Jocasta dwelling unit, free of charge, of course, as a token of the management's grateful recognition of the service he rendered in his last "case" or adventure (which means you have to know what that was) and suppose he does not want the upgrade and refuses, triggering the cleaning woman (who has overheard all of this) to resolve to hire him, triggering the vector of this novel and seriously paving way for the thematic ending, whatever it may be, that the protagonist has moved from being appreciated by Casa Jocasta to being told his presence there can no longer be tolerated.  We're on our way to some specific thinking which, while we're at it, should include a first tier secret inherent in the cleaning woman.  How about a doctorate in Romantic Literature?

Okay, plenty to set in motion.

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