Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Labyrinth

The labyrinth began as you were pushed over the edge of mere interest into free fall, landing in a clump of morbid curiosity.  The meaning was clear:  You had to find where this would take you.  A character--Ben Coleman--had already assumed an interesting enough past that you began to feel a familiarity with him to the extent that you knew he had a promising future and a problem for which he has no hint of preparation.  At his current age, Ben has been through enough to own outright with no payments due a wariness that you see in many men of his age and position.

At the moment, Ben's wariness has just been sent off to storage; he has just been given a performance review in a job he took to get away from the politics of the academic life.  Not only is Ben given a bump in salary, he is given a promotion.

What would all this mean if Ben did not have his wife, Emily, to share it with?  Emily and Ben are each number two mates.  Thus you have a window facing on a portion of Ben's wariness, a window that will be flung wide open when Ben phones Emily to suggest they meet at a restaurant known for its splendid cuisine and ambiance.  Ben wants to celebrate.

The labyrinth exudes more mischief and tricky passageways when you stop to wrap history and event about the armature that is Emily.  Such is her nature that when Ben calls to suggest they meet at the restaurant, she becomes convinced that Ben is going to ask her for a divorce.

Knowing that as the platform for your story, you naturally wanted to dig a bit more into Emily and how she got to where she is, which meant you had to place her in terms of family and how she "learned" to become so vulnerable.  This meant inventing a plausible situation that began more or less when she was in her early-to-mid teens, and thus you came up with Uncle Charlie, her father's brother.
This is all going on while doing edits on a nonfiction book project before sending it to your agent and focusing on her notes for the opening chapters of a novel you have in the works.  This is also in addition to another story unrelated to Ben and Emily, and Uncle Charlie, written in detailed enough notes to capture the lightning and store it in a bottle.

All of this is prologue to the fact that you are now on page sixteen of a story you believe it appropriate to call "Uncle Charlie."  And thus the theme of labyrinth, with you seeking your way out of one of these corridors to keep focused on one thing at a time, a lesson difficult enough to comprehend when you were a teen or a twenty or even a thirty, but which now seems--well, hopeless.

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