Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Writing With My Eyes Closed

  “Desperate women rarely get everything they bargain for.”

A particularly nasty gentleman said that to one of my characters yesterday. He’s right, you know.  I mentioned yesterday how the writing has been a bit of a slog. I wanted today to be different, so I turned to a page in the trusty notebook where I keep all my super-secret Dragongar codes and passwords and read the following passage:

The Dragonclaw. There is a short whitewashed hallway that ends suddenly at the great room: a high-ceilinged place with skylights up among the beams. I see thick wooden pillars all around, a huge stone fireplace crackling away and thick chairs sitting around like brown dwarves. There’s a long wooden bar with a copper cap on the patron's side gleaming in the firelight. A fat man with a generous face cleans a glass behind the bar. There are stools along it, their seats match the brown dwarves. A long black mantle gleams in the light from wall torches. The floor is dark from the soot and grime of years. Turn to the left and you are looking past the bar at a narrow set of stairs. The stairs are tall - the steps themselves a dark wood that creaks as you go up them, as if to tell on you, the backs of them are painted white. At the top of the stairs is a narrow hallway.  On the right is a store room, on the left is my room. 

Inside, a bay window high off the floor lets in light. The walls have tudor wood striping and dark wainscoting runs along the bottom. At the far end of the room is the slope made by the roof outside and a small closet. There’s a camp bed for napping and under the slope of the roof are shelves with books and reference materials, and of course, paper, pens and ink. Next to the shelves, under the bay window, is my desk, where the crystalline winter light streams through and lays down on the floor like a stretching cat. When I look out, I can see the fancy brick shop and part of the Guild Hall of Brickmasters and Masons, with its array of colored bricks and dark stone, and of course, the blue gray paving stones that line all the streets of Regency Row.

This, friends, is the deepest depth in which I sink. It is the blueprint of my own particular madness. I have a place inside my story, inside my world where I go to write. I did this as a lark once, after having an amazing dream about the story I was writing. In the dream, I took a plane, a bus, a taxicab, a train, a mulewagon and finally a buckboard wagon, each conveyance growing older and older, taking me farther and farther out onto the plains, until I was in my story, visiting the characters.  When I got there, I found they had a place waiting for me in the attic of one of the houses, supplied with all the things I would need to write and rest. 

When I started writing about the Dragongar, I knew I had to find a “place” within my fantasy to go and write, so for fun, I wrote the above, with the help of pictures cadged off the net. As I said, it was just for fun, but it is a magic place. When things get really hard, and I feel like I'm "working on the story" rather than writing, I read this description and go there in my head. Then I shut my eyes, and try to stop thinking thoughts like "Character A and character B need to do some talky talk that winds up taking them to character C and discovery B1." All I do is struggle and flounder when I think things like that. Tonight, I decided to try and go inside this world that I love so much and have detailed so thoroughly, and stop thinking and start to see. This is not a new trick, but it is one I forget so often: using images to create or “feel” the story. It often starts with the slant of light in the room, its warmth or chill. What colors are there? Is the firelight reflected off the chimney of the lamp? I start by closing my eyes and seeing the story, the talky talk starts, and the next thing you know, I am not working on the story, I am writing it!


  1. Ooh, that's a funky way of doing it. I, unfortunately, am incapable of such feats of imagination. :-(

    I'm more your "character A needs to go here and do this" kind of guy. Still, it seems to work. ;)

    *Big hugs*


  2. That is because you are still firmly rooted in reality. I'm thinking this is the first sign of my complete withdrawal from reality... I ned a condo in crazyland,first!

    Bigger hugs!

  3. That...is quite possibly one of the coolest writing methods I've ever read about. What a wonderful idea to put yourself squarely in the world you're writing, and observe! I don't write fantasy, but I still think I'm going to try it - no reason it shouldn't work with any kind of setting.

    Thanks - and much luck writing!