Monday, May 23, 2011

How Curious (The Observation, Not the Question)

As you were venturing to ask yourself a pointed question this evening, thinking in advance that you knew most of the answer, awareness came flooding in about yesterday's comments relating to priorities.

The question you were in the act of proposing to yourself, curious to see how you came down on the answer was the straightforward:  Do you believe you could work on two booklength projects simultaneously if one were fiction and the other non?

You have had any number of issues in the past with a liberalized approach to focusing on your projects, but with time have come to see the longterm effects of doing so and with a plan of a six-hour writing day, you're wondering how it would be to start the morning session with fiction, take some time for either exercise or chores or reading, then return for three hours at a nonfiction project.

You decided to give the day over to such considerations, then settled in to one of your favorite activities, notes of agenda, a laundry list of priorities you wanted to get at with some combination of purpose and dispatch.  Item number one, get finished with an editing job for a client.  Item number two, ditto for another ditto.  The lightning struck with item number three, which relates to your novel in progress The Secret of Casa Jocosa:  Although you know your protagonist pretty well, you need a detailed description of his life before he found himself with enough money to buy into Casa Jocosa in the first place, and what circumstances make him an effective investigator/series lead for a batch of proposed thrillers.

You had scarcely got the note written on your note pad when the vision struck home and you found yourself looking at a pretty tight first draft of an opening scene in which your man finds himself in a cheap hotel, "not quite at flea bag level but more a place for transients than any serious tourists," being badgered by a detective about the corpse on the bed, a hole in his forehead and chest.

Intrigued by the fate of the corpse and the consequences that caused his once live presence to become deceased, you found an appropriate way to end this scene, then embark on what you think might be chapter one. This is a delightful circumstance, a step or two beyond mere outline or notes; this is a direct step into a prequel for the work in progress, giving you dramatic history rather than outlined speculation, adding into the mixture attitude you wished your character to have but had no particular reason or knowledge of your character's past history to build upon.  You have now; you know that your man was once, at a tough time in his life, a rent-a-cop for his former brother-in-law's security firm.  You see sources of dramatic energy moving out of the shadowy world of notes and outline, into the world of dramatic confrontation.

The point you neglected to make yesterday, when you were mulling over priorities and hierarchy relative to dramatic energy, things beyond suspense and tension, was the need for curiosity.  The reader needs to be kept in a constant flurry of curiosity, wondering whence the next surprise or reversal.  In order to maintain that level of curiosity, at least into the second draft, you need to be open to your own curiosity about the characters and what drives them forth to work their mischief on the page.

Curiosity.  You understand?

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