Monday, February 2, 2009

Moons, Mayans, and Muses

When writing my previous novels, I didn’t bother with the underpinnings. I had an idea of where the story began and where it ended, but other than that, I wrote the story as I thought of it. I didn’t pay attention to the timeline; the days flowed one into the other without regard for weekends, holidays, or phases of the moon. (If I needed a full moon, I simply wrote one in, even if it was astronomically or lunarly impossible.) Invariably, though, in the second half of the book, I would get confused as to where I was and how everything fit together, and I’d have to stop writing while I figured out the timeline. My still unpublished novel Light Bringer was the worst because I had several characters whose activities needed to be coordinated, and I couldn’t hold everything in my head or even on a written chart. I finally set up a bulletin board, wrote a brief description of each scene on a card, then arranged and rearranged them like a puzzle until I got it worked out.

To keep that from happening with my current work in progress, to be able to track the story from the first scene, last night I set up a calendar for the hypothetical year of my story — the year the world ends. Even though I will not name the year in the book (at least I don’t plan to) I decided it takes place in 2012. That gives me a year to write the book, a year to rewrite it, a year to sell it, a year for the publisher to get it ready and still have it take place in the near future.

Perhaps it isn’t necessary to use the calendar of an actual year, but so much of reading occurs in the subconscious. Readers register details that don’t impinge on their conscious minds; they hear echoes of duplicated words and phrases; they get an uncomfortable if they feel that events couldn’t have happened as portrayed. So, it’s best for us writers to stick with reality when possible, especially when writing fantasy. (And, in the end, aren’t all novels fantasy?)

This morning I Googled phases of the moon for 2012, wanting to make certain my moon won’t be full or new at inappropriate times. I found the chart I was looking for. I found something else, too, something I had forgotten. The Mayans believe that the world will be end in 2012. Life imitating Art? Art imitating Life? My muse (or my memory) playing tricks on me again?

If nothing else, it tells me I did the right thing by setting up the underpinnings for my story this early. If I hadn’t, I would never have made the connection, and it might add an interesting dimension to the story, consciously or unconsciously.

Rhapsody in Blue

When I begin to get immersed in a creating a book, whether by writing or simply by working it out in my mind, I look twice at everything that comes my way, wondering if it is a gift from the muses.

When I received a solicitation from The Nature Conservancy describing the Karner blue butterfly and what they are doing to preserve it. I tossed the letter into the trash, then immediately fished it out. I’m familiar with blue wasps, and recently I saw a huge blue bee, but I had never seen a blue butterfly, and the thought captured my imagination.

I could see it, a scene in my novel — a savannah of blue lupines, clouds of blue butterflies, a swarm of blue bees, a few blue wasps daubing in the mud. My characters would be filled with awe as they made their way through the blue, but it would be so strange that they would also be fearful.

Of course, like all gods and goddesses, the muses are fickle and love to play tricks on us humans. I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time I finished writing my book and got it published, blue would have been done to death. The nine muses will be out there somewhere in the great blue yonder, laughing at me and my gullibility in thinking I was original.