progress, plodding progress
So over the weekend I tackled a new Fathers and Sons story, “Moving Day.” I was pleased when I managed to get down a whole 75 of the right words for the start. Getting a story started properly is a big deal for me. If I make a misstep at that point, I often have a hard time getting enuf story accumulated to reach critical mass. I suspect that I have abandoned some good stories simply because I started them wrong and gave up.
But not so with “Moving Day.”
Those 75 words transformed into nearly 600 before my first session was done. After my second session, I had more than 1,600 words down. Good words, at least as far as I can tell this early in the game. More importantly, the story has found its direction. When I was initially imagining the plot and purpose, it was unlike what the story has since become. The three usual characters are involved: grandfather, father, son. But so far, the father is absent as a physical presence in the story. He is off running errands while the grandfather and grandson are sorting through boxes, memories, and their emotions. (The title, of course, is supposed to carry more than just its literal meaning.) That had not been my original concept for the story. Instead of those two sitting quietly in the old house the grandfather will soon be leaving, I had first thought of having all three characters in the new apartment, squabbling because of the frustration of trying to get too much done in a weekend. So the setting has changed as has the cast of characters.
Even more importantly, a significant moment of character development has occurred in the story, as though on its own. This was something I did not see coming, but it makes perfect sense, works perfectly in the sequence of the stories, and springs naturally from the complex emotions between two of the characters. The grandson (who is a teenager) thinks he hates his father. But then he gets an offhand revelation about him from a photo he’d never seen before. The grandfather, whose memory is slipping, can’t give any more details about what the photo is apparently revealing. But that moment gives the grandson direction for the rest of his life, though he doesn’t know it at the time. This direction for the grandson’s life had always been there; I had always intended to develop the character in this way. But to have its causal moment in his life pop up unexpectedly and link so exactly to the flow and the dynamic between the characters is a delightful, much-welcomed development.
I’ve always said I never want to know too much about my creative process. I’m happy to have it bubble along, plodding as it sometimes is. But I fear that if I am too conscious of how it works, I’ll seize up, observing and questioning the process rather than the outcome. Nonetheless, I can see how this much-welcomed development has grown from my understanding of the characters and the various plots I’ve thrust them into. It makes perfect process sense in retrospect. I’m not sure it would have happened, though, if I had deliberately asked myself to cause the development based on my understanding of the characters and plots. It was revealed rather than crafted, if that makes sense. I love when that happens.
Later in the day: OMG! I just realized that a similar photograph exists of me. It is much like the photo the grandson comes across in the story. I had not remembered this at the time I was writing. More of my creative ferment, I guess.