Saturday, March 20, 2010

No More Mumbling!

I'm deep in Step Five of the Snowflake Method, and I've had a revelation. Before I say what that revelation was, let me start by saying this: Even though the Snowflake Method is a very structured process for plotting my novel, there is a very real and necessary requirement for writing by-the-seat-of-my-pants.

Step Five asks me to "Take a day or two and write up a one-page description of each major character and a half-page description of the other important characters. These 'character synopses' should tell the story from the point of view of each character."

Here's my revelation: One reason my project stalled was I didn't know what was going on with my minor characters. I have two major players, Julie the protagonist and Ray the antagonist. The complete cast of major and minor characters includes nine personalities, five of which up to this point have been (patiently?) waiting in the wings to be called out on stage for the first time.

All this time, I've mulled over Julie and Ray's stories, what they want abstractly and concretely, their goals and the conflicts standing in their way. The ideas I have for the other characters were partially fleshed out, at best. I realized today how much this has contributed to my standstill.

Today, I was a full-fledged "pantser." I started with Providence Maiday, a character whose role in the plot I've vaguely known, though recognized for its importance. With no expectations I let my fingers fly. I wrote in her voice, explaining her part in the story as she sees it. I learned so much about her! An hour later, I had channeled four paragraphs about her life before her entrance in my novel, and found out what makes her tick. Then I moved on to the next character...

Story threads are emerging. Sub-plots are forming in my brain. Logic problems are working themselves out. It's exhilarating!

It was a lot like learning the real lyrics to La Bamba. I always sing that song when it comes on the radio. Its infectious melody and catchy tune suck me in every time. I sing the first two lines and then mumble the rest. And that's exactly what I've been doing with my novel!

I've been singing the two main characters and mumbling over the rest of the cast.

And that is why the Snowflake Method is working for me. It's given me the structure I need to focus my thinking, in a way I haven't been able to do on my own. My creative flow hasn't been dammed up -- just the opposite! Things are flowing again, filling up the dried creek beds and rushing toward the next bigger body of water. And, it's a lot of fun!

In honor of singing the whole song of my novel, I'll leave you with the actual words to La Bamba!

Para bailar La Bamba
Para bailar La Bamba
Se necessita una poca de gracia
Una poca de gracia
Para mi, para ti, ay arriba, ay arriba
Ay, arriba arriba
Por ti sere, por ti sere, por ti sere
Yo no soy marinero
Yo no soy marinero, soy capitan
Soy capitan, soy capitan
Bamba, bamba
Bamba, bamba
Bamba, bamba, bam
(repeat whole thing twice and toss in a guitar solo)

Have a Wonderful Weekend!!