The Biggest and the Smallest
I’m sitting here after a long day that followed too little sleep and trying to think of something entertaining to say. I think we’re all out of luck there. I’m never at my best when I’m this tired, but I wanted to post something today, since I didn’t yesterday. It’s not just the fact that I haven’t been sleeping much either. If only it was so simple. No, some of it is me adjusting to begin back at work, some of it is that there seems to be nothing new to say right now. Some of it, I suspect, is that I haven’t been eating enough lately. No, it’s nothing stupid like me refusing to eat. I just get wrapped up in things and forget to eat until about 10 or 11 and then it’s too late for food. Sadly, this is a regular occurrence when I’m writing.
I already miss having all day to just write, and think about writing, to be immersed in it. I think I need to win the lottery so I can go back to that. I’ve been keeping at it though, now up to 5 chapters of Dark Mirror done in both passes of editing. I’m reasonably happy with what I’ve written too. Oh, I have some things I need to work back into it, and other things that will need some filling in to complete them, but I think I’m striking at least some of the right notes. And it may be better than I either know or would ever be willing to say. My friends know that I’m my harshest critic, never giving myself enough credit and always willing to pick at any flaw without acknowledging the things I’ve done right. The upside of all that is that I don’t really fear or worry about the criticism of others, at least not in my writing, because the chances are slim that they’ll say anything worse than what I’ve already told myself. I sometimes worry that I’ll have that problem even if I were to become a best-selling or award-winning author.
But the work is progressing, and I managed to untangle a knot in my outline for Possession a couple of days ago, so that’s moving forward again at last, though slowly as I’m making the edit of DM my priority right now. If I could just get some sleep, I’ll probably be able to get more done, if only because my brain will then be firing on all cylinders and it definitely isn’t now (adding to my lack of faith in my own perception of DM). I’m hoping that I can get a jump on some of this over the weekend, though, when I can sleep in and stay up late if I want, when I have all day for writing and don’t have to think about work.
Speaking of work, I did have an interesting discussion a couple of days ago with one of the Project Managers on my team that touched on the philosophical, and it made me think about story and character construction a bit. He was telling me about an old Chinese philosopher who talked about the smallest thing being something with no inside, and the largest having no outside. It’s an interesting idea, one I rather like for it’s elegant simplicity of expression. As it would apply to character and story construction, though, it seemed to me that we need to know both ends of that spectrum, the largest and smallest things, even if they don’t make it into the book, partly because those are the things that can lead us into the most interesting places in our tales. I’ve done a little of this, taking elements of several of my characters and opening them up to see what’s inside, then opening that inside up, to see what lives within that, until I can’t drill down into that character any further. I learned some things about almost every major character I have in my Mirrors trilogy that way, things that shocked me, that electrified my brain and turned my previously very linear thoughts on the story for the whole trilogy into total pretzels. In fact, I think a yoga master would be impressed with the twists my brain tied itself into with some of this stuff. Wow. But it’s all a result of looking inside things to see what lurked there.
For going the other way, to the biggest that has no outside, I think that it’s a matter of finding out what the big picture of the story is at any given point, so that you know what goes on in places that the narrative isn’t happening at, with characters that aren’t seen at that moment. And you have to know some of those things, because they will very likely affect the narrative focus at some point down the road. The more I have thought about this idea of the biggest and smallest things and it’s relationship to my writing, the more I realize what an essential tool it is for creating depth, in both the world and characters that I’m building, and in the story I’m telling. I’m enjoying the places it’s taking me, and, if I can get any of this finished enough that I’m ready to put it out there, I hope some of you will too.
Now to go read for a bit and see if I can get some decent sleep tonight. Otherwise, I’ll have to fall back on my mother’s old threat when I wouldn’t sleep as a child: The Rubber Mallet. I think I may have one somewhere in the apartment (don’t ask). If not, I’ll find an alternative, don’t you worry. :)
And no, I haven’t forgotten it. Today’s picture, taken in Northern Ontario where my family gathers every year in the Fall: