“There are things known and things unknown and in between there are the doors.” Jim Morrison
And if I could add to that quote I’d say there are many, many blank pages. So where to start? Usually I begin by banging my head against the wall, questioning myself about why I bother writing. I persist (with the head banging) until the pain becomes too great and I have no choice but to get on with the story I feel needs to be told.
I sit with the original idea that brought me my anguish. In my last novel, Finding Callidora, the idea for the novel came from two sources. My aunt referred to some family feud during one of our conversations, and at the end of our discussion, spit out the following word in disgust: vendetta. That word to a writer conjures up so many wonderful possibilities of treachery and betrayal. It simply would not let me go until I figured out a story befitting its diabolical potential. The second source was a chance encounter with someone who turned out to be a distant relative. I opened both these doors and the world of the novel came to life, first in snippets, then in fully realized scenes and characters with secrets, flaws, misdeeds and humanity.
With my current project, the idea came from the headlines of borders and walls and a curiosity or question. What is the purpose of these things? Protection? Separation? And do we need them so we don’t completely annihilate each other? And what would happen if a free-spirited character didn’t like the idea of confinement, wanted to meet the other, those on the opposite side? What would happen then? I guess that’s more than one question. Sometimes I don’t know where to stop.
These questions set up my initial thoughts. They begin my exploration and help me figure out the character(s) and the journey. Once I have those parameters at least at a high level, the work begins. Oh, the work.
All stories begin with a promise to the reader. In my novel, Finding Callidora, I promised to take you, my reader on a cross-generational search for home and a place of belonging. The question at the heart of this novel: will our protagonists (and there are many of them in this novel), find their way?
With my current project, I promise a journey with an independent, stubborn character who begins to question her life of peace and tranquility and in particular, the walls that separate her from others. What is it she wants to discover about those walls and those on the other side? What makes her so curious when others are content with their reality?
It’s early days, but having the high-level premise for my new project guides me. More doors will appear. I believe this even as I lose hope from time to time. I plan to open every single door. That is the work of the first draft.
Yes! A door just appeared. Got to go before it disappears.
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