Sometimes I write off the top of my head. It’s a stream of consciousness method of storytelling, and it works. Admittedly, it’s slow. There are lots of edits, re-writes, ill-conceived plot points, and quirky characters that don’t always measure up in the end. Those characters often die an ugly death at the hands of my keyboard long before you see or hear from them. Most of them still exist in some form. After all, there are multiple drafts of a book. The original often bears only a passing resemblance to the finished product.
That’s not a bad thing, incidentally. Like a songwriter polishing the arrangement of a song, or a painter tweaking the colors and shading of an image, the writer has the artistic license to rearrange words, add or remove passages, edit at will, or delete as necessary. To get the story you want to tell in the shape it deserves to be in, sometimes you have to smear a little ink, lose a couple pages, and maybe insert a few adverbs or adjectives that were inadvertently left out of the original version.
All that is well in front of me at the moment, however. I’m in the outline phase. The new novel is taking shape. The characters are finding names, motivations, quirks of their personality, and maybe even a bit of a personal history. They have to be full fledged characters if the story is going to really work. For the reader to believe in the characters, they have to be real. Some are intended to be likable. Others are meant to be odious. And at least a few of the minor characters are little more than window dressing. Just like that guy from work who looks so familiar, but you don’t see him often so you can never really recall any specifics about him. That’s why you say, “Hey, how are you?” when you see him on Mondays. No name. No specifics are exchanged. Just a generic, “What’s up, man.” That’s safe when you’re dealing with window dressing disguised as actual people.
See! Fiction is just like real life. Some of the information matters. Some of it doesn’t. A handful of characters are central to the story, but most of them aren’t. Real life, fiction, they’re disturbingly similar. Occasionally they’re so similar it’s hard to tell them apart.
Maybe that’s why readers keep asking me if Burritos and Gasoline is based on my real life? It’s a good question. It’s a fair question. But I’ve dealt with that one enough. The better question is, Are any of the characters in the Lifeboat Augusta series based on my real life? Ah ha! Nobody has asked me that yet. Not in public anyway.
The new novel is tentatively titled, “Island Life.” And I will divulge little about it here. But I will drop these few breadcrumbs for those who have followed me this far. The story begins in New York City. It deals with finance, greed, fear, and the basic building blocks of human motivation. Then it takes a turn.
I’m not going to tell you the rest. That wouldn’t be right. You’ll just have to wait and read it for yourself when it’s done. Right now the story has taken the shape of a highly detailed outline that gives me all the motivation I need to start filling out the portraits of these poor, pitiful, comically misguided people. Their story needs to be told. And I’m going to do just that, doggone it.
Oops, time to get to work. Bye, bye, for now.
Editors note: This post was written in haste and has not benefited from an editorial review. If you find an error, congratulations. Unfortunately there is no prize other than the rich knowledge that you found an error on the Internet. Alert the media. They’ll be fascinated, no doubt.