Friday, November 03, 2006

NaNoWriMo: Progress Report 1

No word count yet. But significant progress in other areas. Areas that should have been established before the 1st!

I had settled on the story idea by the time I wrote the post 'Permission to Make a Mess' but I had little in the way of notes on that story. Which was supposed to be a plus for the purpose of cutting loose. And, since I have been dreaming this story intensely since early spring, I still think it will be once I get a few things established.

Two things especially have been snagging me: 1. No names for my two main characters. 2. No voice for my narrator(s).

I settled the first by the wee hours this morning after spending hours at this baby naming site which includes etymology of the names and alternate spellings. I am picky about names. I have to like them. And whenever possible the name needs to point to the theme via its etymological meanings, or via connotations arising from the sounds of one or more of its syllables, or associations with a famous living, historical or fictional holder of the name, or a nickname, including nicknames made from the three (and occasionally more) initials of the names.

Thus, for my novel, Storyteller’s Spouse, which explores the theme of story and through that the themes of fact/fiction, truth/lie, reality/imagination, myth/history, perception/actual and so forth, there are two main characters:

Lorinda Iris Learner married to Brayden Lysander Teller

Lorinda goes by Lor most of the time, which is meant to imply, lore as in story. She is both lore learner and lore teller. She is a published fiction writer. Her stories have been aimed at evangelical and fundamentalist Christian children and young adults. A traumatic event will force her to call into question everything she ever thought she knew and eventually break irrevocably from the doctrines and world view she was raised under. She has lost the tether of the faith of her fathers and is afloat on a sea of mystery which often feels like insanity. She feels like she is losing her mind. And maybe she is.

Brayden is known as Brayden only by Lor. He acquired two nicknames built from his initials, Bull and Bullet, the first as early as grade school when he became known as a teller of tall tales. He is a born raconteur who weaves his stories out of the fabric of his daily life. He is the star of his stories which often depict him as saving the day like the hero of action-adventure stories whether the events transpire on the playground, at work, at home, at the bar, or on the field of battle; the second was given him in boot camp in reference to his fast-talking and sharp-shooting and quick and accurate appraisal of tactical situations in the field. Both nicknames also call attention to his stubbornness and his intense focus on whatever is at hand.

For more clues about theme hidden in their names visit Think Baby Names and plug their first and middle names in and explore their etymology. Of course, if you are participating in NaNoWriMo yourself, you may want to wait until next month as exploring names there is addictive.

As for the second snag, the voice: Aside from the fact that exploring my character’s voice requires writing narrative, which by the rules of this game mustn’t be done before day one anyway….

This story and it’s theme requires that it be told in first person. I’ve never, in all the dozens of stories I’ve started since high-school tried to use first-person POV. My stories before then were juvenile in all senses of the word and at some point I made such a strong association of first-person POV with amateur and childish I was afraid to try it again.

Then too there is the problem of confusing my ‘I’ with the ‘I’ of my fictional narrator. There are two parts to this. My own ‘I’ getting subsumed by my character and fear of certain readers conflating the two and assuming autobiographical content where there is none. Fears of the first are compounded by the mental and emotional instability of my character, Lor along with my memories of my own instability at the time of a similar crisis in my life fourteen years ago. One of the titles I considered for it, and may still use as either a subtitle or a chapter title, was, The Untied States of a Maker’s I.

My fears of the latter are grounded in experiences of a family member or friend doing just that. Once an uncle was reading over my shoulder as I typed and exclaimed, ‘What are you talking about? Your mother isn’t in a coma.‘ When I tried to explain that this was a fiction story he couldn’t understand why I wanted to waste my time telling untrue stories when there were so many true ones. His unstated implication was that I shouldn’t be using my God-given talent to tell made up stories when I could be using it to tell true stories that could bring souls to the Lord. (Think Guide Post.) That exchange precipitated a nearly ten year writer’s block.

This is complicated by the fact that many of my stories are inspired by events in my life or the lives of people around me. A few of those with intimate knowledge of my life who have read some of my stories have made a point of picking out the references to my real life experiences in them as if it was some kind of game like the popular, How Many ______ Can You Spot in this Picture? Switching to third person POV did not immunize me from that so I stopped sharing my stories and I started second and third and forth….guessing all of my story ideas. So this issue has contributed a great deal to my tendency to keep most of my stories in the planning stages indefinitely.

All of these considerations went into my decision making process as I tried to settle on the story I would work on for NaNoWriMo. The deciding factor was when I realized how much this issue had been dogging me and keeping my creative output at bay. I needed to face it. And this story, which grabbed me and would not let go last spring, is forcing me to in more ways than I can count. Because it is rooted so deeply in my personal experience, I don’t think it can be told without unabashed reference to real events in my life. But at the same time it is neither autobiography nor memoir. Because I intend to give the characters their heads and experiment with ‘what ifs’ that never happened. I guess I’m just going to have to accept that some people are going to want to play the, How Many Joys Can You Find in This Story game. Let them. If that’s the level they insist on reading it, they will be missing the point. But then, maybe I want them to. Then again, maybe I just won’t share this one at all. Maybe this is just for me. All I know is that I have to tell this story. Lor is insisting.

1 tell me a story:

Jamie 11/03/2006 10:39 PM  

I'm so glad you got the names picked out. I wish you much success in the whole story.

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