Why I do that voodoo that I do do, yabba dabba
do. No, I haven’t gone entirely looney, just a contemplative state while thinking about the process of writing.
I was talking with one of friends, Laura when the subject turned to how we write. She’s starting a Southern gothic influenced genre mystery, The Hushpuppy Murders and I am looking at the third novel in my series on Maauro, a 50,000 year old android and her friend Wrik, the disgraced military pilot.
As we teter on the precipice of launching into our newest projects I said, “Well I don’t have a plot but I’ll just start writing the pieces of the story that Maauro and Wrik tell me.” She kinda cocked her head at me and stared. “How do you do that? I just can’t write that way. I have to
know where we are going and what I want my characters to say.”
Ah, therein lies the rub. Laura’s style of linear writing is the preferred, logical and sensible method. No less an authority than Orson Scott Card, in the Boot Camp I attended, said that linear writing is the only method. You have to have each chapter near perfect before going on because your first draft is your only “live draft” he feels.
What a pity I cannot take such advice. My method for writing if method it is, is quite different as is my relationship with my characters.
For me the stories I write are movies that play out in my head. I “see” my stories. The truth be told I feel like my characters live in an alternate universe that I have occasional access to. When I have that access, I learn from them the truth of their lives. There are times when I am writing and the keys are smoking under my fingers, that I am getting the story as it hits the page, it bypasses my conscious self, comes out through my fingertips and I am reading it, learning it
at the very same instant of writing it. I feel like I am taking dictation from Maauro, Wrik, Shasti Rainhell and Robert Fenaday. The creativity is so spontaneous that there is no thinking, no planning or questioning, I am sitting there before a firehouse trying to catch up.
When in communication with my characters, it may not be linear in nature. I don’t tune in
at page 15,16,17. I may be talking to Maauro on page 1 of her adventure then tune back in at a full scene closer to the middle of the book. That’s how it comes to me, in a series of visions, not always in sequence. That never worries me because I have faith that there is a complete story
there behind the mist. I will see enough of it to start lining up the fragments that I have.
Once I see those, I will see the ones in between and more of the movie will come through. Imagine putting together a puzzle. Gradually as you work, more and more of the total picture comes into focus.
This drives several of my writing friends mad. How do you know where you are going? I don’t but I have faith there is a story and that I will see all of it the longer I spend in my charaters company.
In one scene I wrote, Maauro who is a genderless combat android with the appearance of a female Japanese anime character is in hotel room with Wrik. She has kept watch over her injured companion all night long. When Wrik awakens he teases Maauro about spending the night and indeed wearing one of his shirts to support the pretense that she is his girlfriend. Maauro
stands and lets the shirt fall off her body. That body appears to be that of slender female but with no sex, or nipples, just the female shape.
A second later she retextures her outer chassis to look like a jumpsuit. Wrik is left to wonder
if by showing him her“naked” self, she was making some point. wing him that she was so like a human female that he should consider her more of one. Or is it the opposite? Is she is showing
him that for all the depth of friendship and feeling between them, that she is too different, not a biological life form in any sense? Or was it simply the act of being who attached no importance to the momentary nakedness?
My wife, Schelly read the scene, realized the questions and asked them of me. I turned to
her and said in complete honesty, “I don’t know, Maauro won’t tell me.” I have no doubt that Maauro knows. I have no doubt that if I need to know that she will tell me. But like
any other female she has her secrets and will reveal them in her own good time.
For many of my writer friends this is anathema, their characters are their creations, they act out their directions, they reveal what they want revealed and they carry forth the plot they ae told to.
My characters practice no such obedience. In fact what developed as the primary theme of the Maauro stories, her deepening relationship with Wrik was a theme that I did not plan to explore. I
didn’t want to do a Pinocchio story, with Maauro wanting to be a ”real girl.” While it did not in fact
turn out that way, Maauro only wanted to be a more complete and developed Maauro, it ended up closer to the Pinocchio story then I ever planned. It didn’t matter what I wanted or what I intended, Maauro and Wrik had their truths and they would not be denied. I am after all telling their story, not mine.
So here is the anarchic, chaotic universe of Ed’s writing. One part skill, two parts faith. My characters are my friends and like my real friends I try to spend more time listening to them then
telling them anything.
Author Edward McKeown is a writer and editor