I've discovered that the best thing to do, when I'm trying to figure out a plot point or a character or something as specific as how to start a scene, is to go for a walk. I was sitting around wondering how to start chapter three and getting nowhere, and then as soon as I set off for my volunteer position, the answer (along with lots of other useful ideas) popped into my head. Which means I end up with very sloppy notes due to trying to write them and walk at the same time. Apparently the muse likes to be in motion.
I'm also remembering one of the trickiest things about novels. There are so many characters and plot points and bits of exposition and story to weave together, and it's incredibly hard to keep them all in mind. Is what Angie is saying right now consistent with the way her character is with all the other people she's interacted with so far? With her history? With recent events? With where I know she's headed? Does the tone of this part of the scene fit with how I want it to impact the reader? With what directly preceded it? With what will follow? With how the characters would be feeling?
in Gumby voice: My brain hurts!
I can't think about it all and be in the story at the same time. So I think I'm going to hold off sharing until I have a full draft and can take the time to pull it all together tighter. There's no point in getting feedback when the obvious problems I can already see. They're problems because the rest of the story isn't written yet, so I'm still not sure about everything.
What I really want to talk about today, though, is fandom. (Will there ever be a better time for that than now, given the release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix?)
Fandom fascinates me. Maybe partly because I've never had a fannish personality. Never had posters of teen hunks or rock stars on my walls. Never waited hours in line for front row tickets/an author's signature/a movie's opening night. The only things I get into that deeply are the things that are most real to me--my own writing, my own relationships. I don't think that's necessarily a good thing; I've sometimes felt I was missing out by not getting caught up in things the way some do. And I find those who do very, well, interesting.
So I lurk. I've been lurking in Harry Potter fandom, in particular, since I read the first three books nearly two years ago. HP in particular because I write and it's by far the biggest literary fandom out there. I've read fanfics and followed discussions and am watching the reactions to the fifth book with great curiosity.
There is so much a writer--any writer, no matter what genre or pretensions--can learn from fandom. What makes people love a book, what makes them devote hours and hours to discussing it and creating art and fiction based on it? What do they disagree with, what do they wish there was more of and where do they wish it would go, what other directions do they think might be fun to explore? After a while you start to see patterns and consistencies, and what you're really learning about is not just fans, or readers. You're learning about people.
The fact that they're people who maybe someday will be in a position to buy one of your books just makes it all that much more worthwhile.
You learn, too, that no matter what you write, as soon as it hits the page, it's out of your hands. People have totally opposing views, interpretations, feelings about the exact same characters in the exact same text. No matter how well you write, not everyone, probably not even most people, will take things exactly the way you meant them. I guess you could get depressed by this, in a sort of wibbly I will always be tragically misunderstood sort of way. But the flipside is the possibility of it all. What you write is so much more than what was in your head. It's what's in the head of every single reader, too. It's huge. It's spectacular.
But what's most spectacular, about HP fandom specifically, is how a work of fiction can involve people together. Friendships are built, celebrations are had, late night t00bfests are conducted. It connects people. It doesn't matter that these are "kids books". It doesn't matter whether they're literature or pop culture. It doesn't matter if you think HP is an immature indulgence, or over-commercialized crap--you can think whatever you want, and there will still be tens of thousands of people gathered together around the world when book 6 comes out in however many years that takes. Cynicism and nasty critiques cannot stop that from meaning something. From meaning, really, a helluva lot.
If anyone wanted proof that words have power and that fiction is more than brain candy, they needed have looked no further than the nearest bookstore at five to midnight on June 20th, 2003. Or into the rooms where people sat together an hour after, reading and laughing and crying in each other's company.
I used to have a T-shirt from my dad's company. It was kind of drab, but I liked it because on the back, in white on black, it said what I do matters.
Fandom reminds me why I keep believing that.