First of all, a disclaimer. I’m no expert. Not at all. I do think that I have a method to my madness which works well for me. Even when it’s not. Writing a book is tough business. The best way I’ve ever heard this stated is by Harry Crews, see the previous post. Where I’m at right now in the process is what I like to call the pre-vomit stage. Eloquent isn’t it? All this junk, this idea, is stirred up inside me. My mouth is salivating and, soon enough, it’ll all come spewing out. This idea is gathering steam, it’s growing. But an idea is not enough. I need to add some flesh to it (I’ve skipped analogies), it’s the skeleton of something that could be grand, if I make it purty enough.
I’m noting it all down. It’s not a pretty business and consists of organized sittings to make some careful notes, it’s made up of post it notes, scribbled on the back of receipts, on my hand—wherever and whenever an idea hits me. I have my main character and now I need to determine, as concrete as I can, what is it he wants. And, of course, what’s going to get in his way. All this beinbg said, I like to keep my writing as organic as possible. I feel that a lot of writers can be too careful, to scholarly, and note, note note. Organize, organize. Map this, sketch that. Just write the damned thing already. After awhile all your pedantic ways are just an elaborate tactic at stalling. Put your ass in the chair and write something.
I’m writing the history for Thaddeus. Why he is the way he is... What he is... I’ll also recognize how closely this character resembles me and it’s not a pretty sight. I’ve come to realize that all these traits I’ve put down are pretty negative. We can’t have a novel in which the main character is largely unlikable (unless it’s Catcher in the Rye). So I need to soften him up, right off. I have positive traits, I need to present those right off. I’m thinking of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. The Man does some pretty abhorrent things to survive, he’s very strict, he teaches the Boy how to commit suicide, puts the gun to the child’s head several times. In the beginning of that novel Cormac spells out his character’s virtue right off, “He knew only that the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.” That’s three pages into the narrative. So that got me to thinking about Thaddeus Pulliam. And then I found my solution to soften him up, to make You, the reader, like him and root for him. To me, this is the most important thing in a story if it’s going to be a nitty gritty story. And that’s what this is going to be. A story populated with rough characters in a rough town.My noting is almost done. Later int he week, I’ll be onto some very minor research. Some writers like to do a lot of research up front. I’m almost never writing anything technical and find that the lion’s share of my research is done as needed—if I find I’m bullshitting you too much. In this instance, I want to look at some stuff that will help to flesh out Thaddeus.
So that's it up to this point. I'm getting that image in my head, the opening scene. Actaully, it's been in my head since the inception of this book. I've dreamed about it. Now comes the hardest part--doing justice to something you've pictured so well. It's the best scene in any movie you've watched, the one you see on the trailers and think about how much you can't wait to see the rest of the story. It can be a daunting task, but I am up to it. I have to believe that.