Thursday, April 28, 2011
My Novel's Journey: Neeta Lyffe II: Inspiration Comes from Writing
What comes first, inspiration or writing?
I think most folks believe that you need to be inspired in order to write, but here's the secret writers who produce works quickly know: Sometimes you have to write before you get inspired.
Here's an example from this week's work on Neeta Lyffe II: I Left My Brains in San Francisco: When I started this week's writing, all I knew was that they were at the exterminator's conference in San Francisco, and that they would have to take on some zombies and that Ted and Neeta needed to get their relationship straightened out. Oh, and Marcel Chelemas would be after Neeta's affections (or at least her body.) Neeta and Ted had signed in at the conference, had the embarrassing situation of sharing one very romantic room (where Ted is being so gentlemanly he might as well be celibate.) They met up with Roscoe (from Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator) and met his true love, Cameron (of the indeterminate gender). It was the next day, and Neeta had to go to an interview with SanFranciscoOnline.
I had no idea what she was going to do there. Rather than put it aside, I just delved in writing.
First, I realized while writing the dinner scene with Roscoe and Cam that Neeta never really worked through her feelings about killing Bergie in the first book. I mean, she knew she did the right thing, but how do you get over chopping off a friend's head with a chainsaw? From that realization--which only came about from writing the dinner scene--I decided to start her day with a nightmare she'd only half remember.
And while we're doing a nightmare, let's have Bergie's head deliver an ominous warning? That also came from the dinner conversation and the comedy act they were watching.
So, you know the expression, "Put your character in a tree. Put vicious dogs at the base. Throw rocks."? Neeta's in the tree. I have no idea where the dogs are or what my rocks look like. So I just start with her waking up and let her lead me.
She didn't remember the dream at all, just woke up flustered. Inspiration--Bergie will have to come back, each time, she'll recall just a bit more. Now I have future scenes figured out.
Since she's flustered for no reason, she finds one--Ted. Are they dating or not? Oh, and she doesn't want to do the interview and she's tired of worrying about money... That takes me until she's dressed and waking up Ted so he can get ready for the conference.
By now, the subconscious has taken over. The characters are acting on their own and I just record. As they do, I get new glimpses of how things work:
Ted makes a comment about not being jealous because he's got nothing to be jealous of. He and I know it's because he's confident that Neeta and he are meant to be, but Neeta doesn't know that. He also tells her that they are spending the next morning together on Fisherman's Warf. At this point, I'm at my goal for the day.
The next day, I have to write the interview. I almost decided to skip this scene and wait to see what I need to foreshadow, but I figured I could at least get her to the studio. As I started writing, I realized I didn't want a typical studio for an online show, so I looked up houses for sale in San Francisco and based it on a nice one I found in the $500,000 range. Suddenly, I knew the story behind the studio--the family business of a former TV anchor with a jealous husband who decided to quit TV to stay home with the kids. Her husband suggested they start their own online show and now it's hugely successful.
Jealous husband? What about Ted not being jealous, ever? Inspiration--for Neeta and me. Suddenly, Marcel has weaseled his way onto the show, mostly with the intention of meeting Neeta. Neeta sees the husband's protective reaction to Marcel being around his wife, and thinks maybe she could provoke a reaction from her own man.
End result, she let herself get talked into doing something with Marcel when she's supposed to be at Fisherman's Warf with Ted.
And now I know what I'm writing tomorrow.
The thing is, if I'd let myself wait until all this came to me, it would not have. It took the physical act of writing them through the events to let my characters tell me what comes next.
Writing doesn't need to begin with inspiration, but writing breeds inspiration.