Tuesday, December 3, 2013

HELP! Imagination overload and getting characters and plot right at the start

Northwest botanist, David Douglas
INKBLOTS: Four gentlemen, Old vine red, chilly air and the de-icing crew already hitting the streets outside. Turns out to be a PNW regional evening (excepting, or is that including, the Martian sci-fi deal? You decide).

Alan leads off with new piece he's working on. Blogging (www.vanitasvanitatvm.blogspot.com--check it out), this one leading off with Jonathan Edwards, then off to Pacific Northwest locale and the oddities that begin with the actual name of the region. Douglas fir tree on the Sounder's banner, Cascadia flag, called "The Doug." Alan even had visual aids for us, a picture of the Cascadia flag, a symbol of a secessionist movement. Chinook jargon was a trade language, combining French, English, and Indian language (Chinook being one Indian settlement on the Columbia River but now the name representing a vast region where trading brings varied cultures together). This is overlapping with my PNW region research for my next book, David Douglas, the Scottish botanist, called
Largest Douglas fir in America
"The Grass Man" by local Indians in the early 1800s.

We talked about why we blog and the ideal length of blogs (300-500 words) and frequency (4 times a week), as the experts say. Alan then shift gear and reads a poem, biographical verse on the stages of a man’s life. What News, What News of Timothy the Fair, a gentle wheat-caressing verse, read with tenderness and appreciation of our dentist poet from our fair Washington State jutting defiantly like a chin out of the Left Coast of the rest of the states. And then Alan rounds up, pointing to Christ who seeks the lost and heals the halt and lame and raises up the needy (Tim was found
helpless with a broken leg). Enchanting lyric, about a family in our church whose son went hiking last year and was missing for five days. Alan, friend of the family, was beside himself during those days and didn’t know if he was writing a poem for joyful gratitude--or for a funeral. Thankfully, it was the former. The young man was found with a broken leg, restored to his family with great joy. This was a beautiful piece, indeed.

Patrick got inspired by John’s suggestion last ‘Blots to enter this writing contest. Reading where he left off on his Mars story from last time. Two people talking on space ship, thought everyone had been wiped out, but they just found women, the men having left with the children. Taejon is the main character, Korean inspired name. The clash of a tough-minded wronged female and a commander who wants to fix everything, and who has an enormous amount to learn about interacting with women. I’m intrigued (and I don’t typically read sci-fi). What did happen here? You’ve hooked me on this yarn. There’s an authenticity and honesty about this interaction. Patrick tried to stop reading. We would not allow it. I do think there was a shift that began to get too narrative without a human perspective, telling us rather than showing us. Could someone be telling us this, complete with human gesture and interaction. Alan commented that this is an interesting and intriguing reworking of the old Martian stories that seem to have fallen out of taste now. This yarn make me wish it hadn’t. We talked about Asimov and Bradbury, who said that with space travel we can live forever. Star Wars happened and introduced Science Fantasy. The genre has shifted to internal computer, rarely old-school social commentary and actual space travel and life. Gene Wolfe is the old school sci-fi that Patrick prefers, creating a new culture, a new world somewhere, navigating the clash of your old culture with the new, the role of men and women. The gesture toward the un-opened door is inspiring to Patrick. Alan asked if this is postmodern, pre-modern says art reflects reality and God, modernism prefers randomness, then form precedes the meaning as in existentialism, interpretation then gives meaning. Patrick is of course crafting this from a Christian and biblical world view. Fascinating, with three of the stories finished and two others started. Does Patrick have a master plan, a series of stories strung around zombies as an analogy to the sin nature. Which made him think of his Adam and Steve story…

John has been doing some reworking on his Saving Grace manuscript (Grace is the girl whose life has come apart in significant ways—I like this title [smile]). Her bleeding was not clear to me, her lip from the fall. Alan commented that John has done a really outstanding job at creating the characters. Did the guy’s stance about the abortion change throughout their conversation? Is his tenderness confusing his resolve to have the abortion or is it underscoring what a jerk he actually is. Patrick likes the faux tenderness, so typical of a manipulative male who really doesn’t care much at all about the girl whom he has impregnated. Alan felt that John (a male writer) managed to get inside the girl’s head in a remarkable way.  It was a realistic portrayal of the guy trying to dodge responsibility, seduce the girl (again), all while caring absolutely zip for the life of the child and of Grace. She is
Huge Scottish presence in PNW history
spiraling down, her mother willing to pay off the jock biological dad if he will just go away. Patrick likes the devil appearing as an angel of light in this interaction, so well done, and authentic, the way a guy tries to make himself likeable, and to a degree, succeeds. This is true to life, his own confusion, his massaging the situation for his advantage—John has avoided stereotyping the characters, showing the complexity and self-deception that makes for such.

So I map out my thoughts on my HBC and PNW yarn. Multi-ethnic region, Scottish, Indian, Black, Hawaiian, American settlers, US Army--north and south mounting tensions. Inter-racial marriages common. We discussed the differences between what men mean when they affirm in conversation and what women mean, and in Washington flaky vagueness, ya, ya, we should do that. Regional non-committal, can't-say-no Pacific Northwest gluck. Maybe Postmodernism on the stump.

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