Monday, March 8, 2010

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

So, I had two things I woke up super excited about, and one sort of inspired the other, so I'm going to talk about both.
Allow me to set the stage.
My roommate got an email offering her four free tickets to the Fox Theater to see a German orchestra. So, we thought, heck, they're free, and rounded up some peeps. The Fox is a lovely piece of Atlanta culture that must be experienced to be understood. It looks like a Persian palace both inside and out, and if you're in the balcony seats, you look up to a navy blue sky with twinkling lights behind the top of a Persian tent. It's magical, and that's just the theater, not even the show. Well, the show, it turns out, was a big-band era orchestra, complete with a singer who gave a brief intro to each piece through the old-school mic. The whole thing was very once-in-a-lifetime.
Which brings me to my second exciting thing. As happens a lot when I'm working on a writing project, I think about my characters whenever my mind is not actively engaged in reality. So, if I'm running, or if a sermon is less than captivating, or when I clean house, I spend time in story-world. Sunday night, while enjoying the dance tunes of the pre-war Germany, I thought how one of my characters wouldn't be able to sit still with the music playing, and how the others would react based on their past and present concerns.
That's when it happened. They started acting of their own accord. My characters were doing things and making choices and saying things of their own volition! Yes, to the uninducted it might sound like I'm due for a refill of my meds, but my fellow creative-types are tracking. Character building is one of the most fun and hardest parts of novel writing for me. You begin with a name, or an idea, or a gender, who you need to experience something or fill a roll. At that point, they could be anyone, any age, any heritage. They could love pepperoni or be a vegetarian. They could be a math person or a words person or a fashionista who doesn't care about either.
Slowly, as you mull over the story, the concept, the paths they could take, a personality begins to develop. The person appears a certain way for a certain reason. They like things because of where they've come from and their fears are deep and often misunderstood. But as you refine who they are, get to know them, they also become real and have the power to drive a story in directions you never saw coming.
It's really exciting when it happens, and last night while a German was singing "Dancing cheek to cheek," I listened to a conversation between characters.
Yay! Progress! I've known these folks for months now, and I'm so proud of them. I can't wait to see what they do next.
Thank you, God, for the creative process, for guiding me and for the seedlings of people and experience you give me that will grow into a novel.

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