From Mind to Manuscript


My fiction additions have been lacking of late, replaced by a reminder to show some love for the Hugo Nominations and a handful of photographs of my friends and I basking in the glory that is beating Tom Brady in the Superbowl.

Yet now, I bring you news from the pen.

These are three of the seven pages of handwritten notes and summaries of what I dare call an attempt at a full-length novel manuscript. Divided into two parts with ten chapters to each, the story has been whirling in my mind for nearly six years, but the simplest of sparks can start an apocalyptic inferno, and that is exactly what occurred.

I was utterly failing at how and why to lead my main characters from Point A to Point B until I re-read Chapter One of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and I was struck with as much lightning as the salesman in the beginning of Bradbury’s novel.

The words pulsated from my mind to the page; at first in neat strokes, but soon the pen could not keep pace and the words began to grow with blemishes and flourishes that seemed more like a cryptic code than plot summary –  something better suited for an Ovaltine Decoder Ring and Little Orphan Annie than a writer’s notebook.

And now I am left with a per-chapter outline of a story that has no name in a fantastical world with no name.

Yet do not overestimate this aligning of the stars. I already know that my first chapter will not be such, and that the entirety of Part Two needs to be rearranged, exchanged, and shaken, not stirred. What I have is a road map riddled with closed roads, construction detours, and p(l)otholes that would put I-278 to shame.

But I am a writer who needs a semblance of organization with his pre-production storytelling. I cannot be organic, that is to write almost stream of consciously, allowing the characters and plot to unwind as the ink, or digital text, stains the page.

In the margins of my notes are written: Rules of Magic. This isn’t to pack appendices or feign intellectual world-building, but because in a fantastical realm there are undoubtedly to be moments when magic is used, and I need to know how to use it correctly. I once heard someone mention, “If there’s a gun on the table in Act 1, you better use it in Act 3″, and I believe that characters and items in stories should follow the same advice.

I seek to ensure that no one character is overly powerful, or one overly weak, that there must be a way to defeat anyone. That if half of a book is dedicated to obtaining a specific item, then it better aid in shifting the entire story itself, not a one-and-done puff of smoke (Hermione’s Time Turner, for example). And that a character’s death is relevant to the plot, not just because the story required a *gasp* moment. All this which leads me to my next point:

Read. It is incredibly important for all of us to understand how to write the correct way, as well as the incorrect way, a point I believe is vastly overlooked. Obviously it comes down to our ability to decipher between the two, but I’ll assume that intellect will shine light on that path.

Or maybe that Ovaltine Decoder Ring will come in handy.

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