This really should have been last week’s post, but I got all excited by a scene and so I dumped this one and did the other. Now, this is all out of sequence, but I’m posting it anyway. I write fiction… I’ve done weirder things than mess with time.
I have been on the road for 10 days, (see how I jumped back in time?) with limited cell access, and even more limited Internet access. Don’t feel sorry for me though, as this was research. Really! Research. For the 4th Jane Yellowrock book.
During it, I’ve run several rivers, and the hubby and I ran Zip Lines through trees, down a mountain (after climbing most of it on newly built stairs. Yeah, I know. I’m a wimp. I shoulda used biners and climbing rope and muscle) and zipped down over the Pigeon River twice – what a RUSH!
I’ve hiked several streams, and have the bumps, bruises, scrapes, skeeter bites, poison ivy and sore muscles to prove it. The hubby and I’ve took hundreds of photos. I had a massage, a soak in a hot-spring mineral bath, experienced my first a mud wrap, (divine, BTW), interrupted a self-proclaimed hillbilly taking a bath in a stream, (yes he was buck-naked, about 5 feet off a curving mountain road) shopped in little country stores (me not the naked guy,) bought local honey and locally made root beer and ginger beer. (Not beer-beer. More like gingerale.)
More importantly, I stood 150 feet above the French Broad River on the sunset of the equinox and felt the earth breathe. I watched the equinox full moon rise over the French Broad, glowing the frothing surface to silver-white.
Most important? I found places for Beast to roam and for Jane to hunt her nemesis, in a book that will take her back to her old stomping grounds. Places full of dark memories and pain, and bright joys. And perhaps, love… I don’t write love well, and my characters always seem to be star-crossed lovers with no hope of happiness—odd for a gal who has been married to the same guy for 25 years.
My point to this rambling monologue is that “getting away from it all” resets my tired brain and lets me freebase. I know that actually means something else (and not so good either), but it’s what I’ve always called that freewheeling, loose, flight-of-fancy creativity that can happen when I am swept away from the known, the common, and the ordinary. Back home, I’ve now finished the page proofs of Mercy Blade, done a heap of pushed-to-the-side work on the Rogue Mage role playing game / world book, and finished my part of the MagicalWords.Net *How To* book. I’ve been productive, which is a lot easier when my mind is clear and free of the everyday problems and stresses.
Okay – the Writing Stuff – which is all actually tied in with the above. Really.
Reader believability, reader suspension of disbelief, is all in the details. It doesn’t take much to yank a reader out of a story. For medical thrillers, a doctor ordering 50 mils of morphine might do it. (Unless the doc is intending to kill the patient and the nurse taking the order is helping him.) For techno-thrillers, having a weapon fire more rounds than it can hold without changing magazines or reloading might do it. For romance novels … hmmm. Okay, let’s skip romance novels. We have young readers here. For police procedurals, it might be cops talking like regular folks do, instead of like cops talk. For hard SiFi, it might be technology that works opposite to known physical laws, without the explanation of how it might do that. Whatever genre a writer writes in, he has to know the background subject matter, know it bone deep, even if that background is all fiction and he is worldbuilding a new planet and new magic system from the bones up.
To remind me of this, I keep a statue on my desk. It’s a naked woman with wings, a female angel, her feet on solid ground, her wings up in the air. She is curled around herself, knees bent, arms around her knees, her head down in the fetal position – as if she is weeping into the Earth. It’s a beautiful statue, but there are a lot of things wrong with the image, which is why I keep it near me, to remind me that all writing (like all art) must reflect some form of reality for the reader to be able to accept the fictional parts.
I study the statue every time I write to put my mind in gear on suspension of disbelief. How can a statue make me write better? What’s wrong with the statue from the point of view of my world? That is what the post is about.
1) I write one series on post apocalyptic fiction (in the religious / nonreligious sense) with magic, with a history based on ancient scriptural predictions. There are no female angels in any of the religions I base my books on (Judeo Christian mostly, with a smidge of Muslim and a hint of Buddhist). There might be some female angels, but there are none in the writings, so if I base my story on the existing ancient predictions then I have to have male-only angels. If someone else wanted to write a book about female angels would I gnash my teeth or throw the book across the room? No. But her femaleness makes me think about my world.
2) Her wings grow out of her back without a thought to how the bone structure and musculature might work. They look glued on. In a real world (my real world) wings have to work. For flying.
3) The wings aren’t long enough or powerful enough to lift her, assuming her body mass and bone structure are similar to humans’. It might be more like birds, with hollow bones, but if I didn’t set that up early on, then it becomes an error and the angels in my world would need bigger, longer wings.
4) Her hair. In many ways this is the worst mistake. Angel Lady is bending down, with her head lower than her shoulders. Yet, her hair flows up her shoulders and up her back. Against gravity.
This last one, especially, speaks to me as a writer. In the world I create, the physical laws (or magical ones) have to be consistent. In the page proofs of Mercy Blade, I discovered a line where Jane Yellowrock puts 3 silver crosses around her neck and goes dancing. Much later, in a club, while wearing the same clothes and crosses (because I never took them off of her) she meets a female vamp. The crosses never glow, which they do in my world in the presence of vamps. This was a HUGE ERROR! The copy editor didn’t catch it. I didn’t. My editor and the line editor didn’t catch it. I had to go back and put the crosses under her clothes. Like the antigravity hair on the Lady Angel, my magical system has to be consistent with the laws I have created.
Angel Lady is a lovely statue. It is full of pathos and agony and fear. It was a gift and I love it. But it’s all wrong.
Writing. It’s all in the details. Which is why I take trips to places I intend to write about, even if I’ve been there before many times. I need a reminder how the places smell, how the air feels, how the food tastes. How the people sound and look and speak. What the music is like. What the politics are like. I need it all to make sure the details are right. It’s called Writing What You Know. And it’s the first rule of writing.