Thursday, September 02, 2010

WIP Diary: Divine Inspiration

So I'm still working out these scenes between my MC and one of her love interests as per massively helpful comments by dear friend (see this entry.)

I'm not gonna lie. I've been having a bitch of a time with it. I was talking about it way back here on August 11th for pete's sake. Two crummy little scenes and three weeks down the road, I'm still struggling.

This is why I hate revision. (Although this isn't really revision. This is just patching things up so we can move forward. And don't give me any of that shitty-first-draft crap either. No can do. Certain things have to be in order for me to move forward. We all have our own methods. Which won't stop me from giving the shitty-first-draft line to other people. Ha! I don't know. Sometimes it isn't so much as a method as it is a freeing thought, the SFD thing. But I'm drifting. Back to my problems.)

Why I hate revision--and I've said this a billion times--I just have a terrible time rethinking what is already there. But when the original thinking has been incomplete, you have to come up with another approach.

One of the things that has always always helped me and that for some idiotic reason I keep forgetting is pictures. I'm a visual thinker. I see the story on a little movie screen inside my head. (I know. You wouldn't believe what goes on in there.) Many eons ago, I used to draw pictures of my characters. These days, I need photographs of real people. And it really has almost nothing to do with having the photographs so that I know what the characters look like. It's about knowing that they are real people.

It started with my first published novel Raising the Griffin. In the first few drafts, I had been head-over-heels in love with the idea of my MC being all tortured and stuff. And so those were the only reactions I drew out of him. You know, the sort of reactions one would have to being tortured. Miserable grumpiness. The kid didn't have a pleasant moment in nearly 300 pages. I loved him. Other people found him to be a pain in the ass.

But as hard as I tried, I could not see him any other way. He was my tortured darling. Maybe this goes back to my need to be in love with my characters. (Yes, I know. I don't have time for therapy.) I get a bit of tunnel vision about them. I could only see this one side of Alexei, as he had been created on that movie screen in my brain.

What it finally took was for me to fall in love with the face of a real person, someone who reminded me of my MC. In this case, Russian-born-Canadian-figure-skater-sometimes-A&F-model Fedor Andreev:

Look! He's smiling! I don't know how stupid this sounds, but that was all it took to pry open my closed little mind and insert the idea that Alexei could smile sometimes. That in spite of being in a miserable situation, nobody is miserable 24/7. (Okay, not many people. I could name one or two.)

But it's more than just that. It's like being on a jury in a murder trial and being shown a picture of the victim in happier times. The prosecution can talk and talk about the poor victim but all you see is the torture of the defendant, who is right in front of you. You see their face and you see their humanity. You need to see that for the victim, too, to remember that this was a person like you, going about their life, feeling happiness and sorry and above all, hope for the future.

So that's what I get out of pictures: the humanity of my characters. And so the other day, stuck stuck stuck on this blasted scene, unable to figure out how the character would really react, what he would say in the situation I'd plopped him in, I was idling on the internet, cleaning out my bookmarks and came across a forgotten webpage I'd bookmarked. A picture. A picture of a guy who looked the way I thought my MC's love interest looked. (This is British actor Joseph Morgan. And no, it never really crosses my mind to consider how these people might feel about me hijacking their faces for my own ends, which actually sounds pretty callous now that I've typed it out, but anyway.)

Ta da! Inspiration. And divine, isn't he? Sigh. But no, really. It isn't about that! I swear. It's about looking into that face and seeing a person, a whole and rounded person. This only works with a face that suggests that kind of activity and life. Here, it's in the eyes. He's got things to tell you. That's what I need out of my character and that's what this photo gives me.