Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The story gets bigger as the story gets smaller

When you begin by imagining something really big, usually it's because you haven't worked out any of the details and you expect that they are in some ways immaterial. This is how many of college students approach their writing: they have this idea and if they could just get it all down on paper in a more or less sequential manner, then all would be good, and the A would come forth. Unfortunately, after the pre-writing conversation, it comes out that they've really not got more than a paragraph of really coherent idea, and mostly it's just blather. "Schools would be better if they weren't boring." Yea, true dat. What makes their writing potentially interesting, in this case, is their own experience as being (a) bored witless, and (b) convinced that this educational experience was good for them in a way that would be revealed some time in the future (when Christ comes down to harrow the sinners once and for all).

My own novel-writing project has followed this trajectory as well: the vague and grandiose vision with which I began was eventually revealed as a half-baked first sentence full of adverbs. And I hate adverbs. But through a good deal of talking to myself, by writing, I believe I am coming to something a little more chewy. And the more I fuss with the detail of imagining a world, real or fantastical, in which my characters, those little avatars of self, might inhabit and do something interesting in, the richer the possibilities become. I am using, off and on, the snowflake method, which I found somewhere online, where one starts with a one sentence summary, moves through a longer synopsis, characters sketches and synopses, and then something else. I have decided to treat what I hope will be a three part/volume novel as one, making the relationships between the plot elements, the world, and the characters more organic.

I'm very pleased with the arrival of a new main supporting character, Kral Sviň (King of the Pigs) who is adult with undisclosed some special abilities and relationship, and a business. His business of raising pigs and selling pork products is the centerpiece and engine of the plot. He wants to make sausage, in particular, something like Prosciutto, and he has no salt. He is limited to fresh and frozen pork products and to smoke curing. [Of course, as we find out later, salt has other special properties in which he has a keen interest.] Both main characters find themselves working for Kral Sviň, who has many stories about history and life. [It turns out that he has been around since the time of the Union, several normal lifetimes, in various guises and is related to the Rromii: perhaps he is actually one of them. Both Havel and Bloehm seem to find themselves with him by strange chance, but it is their magic that has brought them to him. In fact, he collects magical young people. I'm thinking of a sort of Romani-Slovak Obi Wan Kenobe with pigs. So the pig-slaughter, the zabijačka, will figure in the story as well. Another major secondary character is Jasmina, who Havel is supposed to protect in the first part, but who disappears in the battle at Kráľova hoľa (where Slovak folk hero Juraj Jánošík appears ... more on that later). Anyway, each added character and place, full contextualized historically, geographically and culturally, puts the meat on the bone. Though more and more, it doesn't seem absolutely necessary to the story that there be a futuristic setting ...

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