Tuesday, August 21, 2012

From the beginning (and the persistence of writing)

The leaves I picture the dead guy in my novel lying on.
Yes, these are the things I think about while going about my day.

A few years back when I was working as the assistant features editor at my local newspaper heard a call on the police scanner that someone had found a body in the woods near their house.

 The man who found the body took a reporter and photographer to the spot where he'd found the body and a story ran in the paper the next day.

That's really all I remember about the spark for this novel I might never finish. I thought about the person who found the body - How did he come across it? How had it changed his day? How might it have affected him long term?

I thought it would be interesting to try to answer these questions. Could you imagine going about your daily routine - taking the same walk you do every day, seeing the same things you see every day, feeling comforted and safe by the sameness and then one day you trip over a dead guy?

I think I've always wanted to take a stab at writing fiction -- other then some short stories I wrote in a creative writing class in college I hadn't really tried writing stories of my own invention since I was a kid. I was intimidated about having to invent characters and a universe for them to live in, not to mention interesting scenarios for them to be involved in (AKA plot).

But then this dead guy dropped in my lap. And I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd been handed my story, I just needed someone to guide me through it. And then it dawned on me - as it must all fiction writers - that there was no need to invent anyone out of whole cloth when I already knew so many interesting characters ("no shit" utters every fiction writer in the history of storytelling.)

So my brain introduced to Eleanor - an amalgamation of friends and acquaintances who seemed to offer the most interesting perspective on dead body discovery. After I dreamed her up I was excited at the prospect of building a story around her. And I had all sorts of ideas about who Eleanor was and what her life was like that I talked about with other writers (or at least thought about anytime I thought about writing). I might have even written some of these ideas down. 

Of course at various junctures (well, most junctures) I've decided that writing a novel is out of my league and ability (I've not always been the best about finishing long-term projects), but Eleanor, the dead guy in the woods and several others have taken up residence in my brain and are refusing to leave. 

Over the years I've stopped in to check on them from time to time. My first deadline for completion was before my daughter Lily was born September 2010. My second deadline for completion was before my second daughter Jovie was born in April 2012. My new deadline is before I die. I've never been great with setting deadlines.

I've written about 25,000 words, so there's really no turning back now, right?

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