Why Write Now?
Okay so this is our (drum roll please) inaugural blog post. Welcome to Scribisms! We are expecting this to be a weekly blog, and the various authors at BW Scribes Publishing will contribute in rotation. Now, because I, A. N. Britton, have released my first novel, (Chymaera’s Overture - perhaps you’ve heard of it?), they drafted me to write the first post. Well, I vacillated between no @#$&!*% clue and 50 bad ideas about what I should discuss. I mean, I’d like our first post to feel momentous I guess? After deliberation I decided, hey this is BW Scribes Publishing, and what do we do here? We write and we publish. So the first blog post should answer the most important question in all we (well, I can only speak for myself) do.
Why do I write?
So this is an easy question to answer; however, the answer requires explanation. I write because I love, and am invigorated by, the process of creation. Creating anything, novels, mayhem, design schemes - is my drug of choice. But writing, because it relies on my imagination and is not dependent on reality or Anything Troublesome like that, provides me with the most consummate experience of creation. It makes me god-like, not that I have a complex or anything. But anyway, creating is intense and amazing, and little beats the experience.
Many people have this concept of writing in which writers get caught by bright moments of inspiration or “the spark”, leading to hours and hours, upon weeks and months, of a fevered writing frenzy. As if they’ve been touched by a divine being and bestowed with a talent that flows through them and they CANNOT STOP MAKING THE MAGIC! Hmm, maybe some authors experience that, but I am not one of them and I’m okay with that. For me, writing is a slow, methodical, and painstaking process. I enjoy the grit of the work and the perseverance completion takes.
My new stories always begin with a character first. and the character always begins with a question, or, a series of questions. I’m somebody who lives in the land of “what if” and during life I pose various silly questions to myself in response to things I’ve read, or seen, or thought about. The first question that led me to create Chymaera Durand was “If I could be any fantasy creature, what fantasy creature would I be?”
Once I formed an answer to the initial question, more questions revealed themselves. Because I would totally be a shape-shifter; however, I didn’t want to be a shape-shifter like any I’d read about. So I began to clarify what a shape-shifter meant to me. See my perception of shape-shifters is they’re the ultimate Insider-Outsiders. I mean imagine being able to have the perfect disguise, the perfect camouflage. On one hand, you’d fit in everywhere with everyone, in theory. In reality, you’d always be on edge, afraid some aspect of your demeanor would expose you as an impostor. At the same time, your own community would always be enmeshed in subterfuge so how would you develop a healthy self-identity when what you are was always being hidden? That was the starting point for an interesting idea for a character. So I drilled down. Years ago I was lucky to have a creative writing instructor by the name of James Prothero; he stressed to us how to develop characters that were well drawn and complete enough, so they felt like people we knew. To this day, before I create one word of a story, I work out complex character sketches. I know if a character drinks coffee, tea, or blood- and how they prefer it served. Whether they are an insomniac or one those people who crashes for 8 hours every night. Whether they’re gluten sensitive or silver intolerant. I figure out little quirks and idiosyncrasies until that character is a voice in my head, a vision just out of sight.
Now, after I got Chymaera locked down, I started to figure out her relationships. No one is an island. Everyone has relationships that inform who they are, even if the relationship is past tense. So I imagined those associations and formed those characters. An association generally determines motivations and ways of dealing with certain characters and relevant symbols, and I make notes specific to this. Of course, each supporting character got roughly the same treatment my Chymaera did in terms of a character sketch as well. There is a trick to this, and a reason I keep association notes separate from character sketches. The associations apply to characters’ interactions, but are not representative of characters as a whole. For example, Chymaera’s relationship with her mother Martine was fraught with difficulty at times (Mothers & Daughters right!). That has less to do with who Martine is (you’ll get to know her better in book 2, and so will her daughter) than how Chymaera perceives her mother because of her issues with another maternal authority figure. That association isn’t specific to Martine, it affects Chymaera’s relationship with all the elder women in her family. (If you game, think of associations as mental attributes.) I also create these association notes and/or character sketches to represent relationships with places, pets, concepts, anything significant to how the characters relate to the world and each other..
My character now shared headspace with a family, friends, and frenemies; all chattering at me to give them something to do. This was nearly a starting point for my story. Then, I decided where my characters would hang out, I had to give them a home. The location tends to reveal itself during the character sketches, but those have to be done before I give the physical space its own in-depth treatment. In Chymaera’s Overture, most of the book takes place in Orange County in Southern California. While I wanted to stay true to aspects of reality, I superimposed my imaginary So Cal over the real thing. When dealing with a place that actually exists, I believe it is better to ground some elements in things people will recognize and then add in your creations. So I blended memory (born and raised in Santa Ana, thank you very much!), with present day and certain fanciful locales.
So, if you are keeping track, at this point I had a main character, supporting characters and a place. But technically, I didn’t have a story. This is the part I enjoyed most. I don’t fantasize about convoluted plot devices. Nope, once I’ve created my characters, their personalities, and the structure of their characterization create the story. Seriously, I’m not being lame or keeping a secret. Most of my stories are about the interplay between characters and their personal growth or decay.
I take my characters, throw them in an environment, toss a few life bombs at them (like Dodgeball), and I let them bounce off of each other and overcome (or not)! And, as a dutiful and objective reporter (yeah, right) I record everything that happens and write it up with panache! It almost seems kind of sadistic sometimes, because not everyone survives unscathed and it’s my fault, but…we all have to deal with difficulty. (Eh, I’m lying - sometimes I feel really awful when life screws one of my characters over. Still, I try not to deux ex machina my books because I hate it when that happens in a story I’m reading!)
I love all these characters I bring into being, even the ones I don’t like. They intrigue me and we get each other. I believe them into existence and take them on a journey. It’s difficult, and I didn’t detail all the pitfalls that can mar and derail the process, but at the end, a unique experience exists. To feel the weight of the work in my bleary eyes, and cramped neck, is to know I have earned what I have created.
That’s why I do it again and again.