Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I freak myself

I had an odd occurrence today.  I'm going through what I've written on POS and mapping it out, when I get an idea for a later part of the story.  So I go to it to make a note and stumble onto something I didn't remember writing.  And it's a pretty intense bit where Brendan finds out what he's capable of.  I started reading it and it took me a good three pages to remember when I'd done it.  What makes it even wilder is, the idea I had dovetails into it.  So how could I not remember doing it?

It's moments like this that make me think I'm tapping into something much broader then me when I work on my stories.  And I know I chat a lot about how my characters talk to me and lead me places, all of it with a nudge and wink to acknowledge I'm perfectly aware I'm tapping into my own subconscious or unconscious or something like that...but the truth is, some of the things that come out...I don't know where they come from, because I have experienced nothing like them.

The first time that happened was on a script I wrote called "The Wilderness Rule", which was totally destroyed by the man I'd stupidly partnered myself with.  It's still a painful period, and it didn't need to be.  I'd worked up a script that was easy to shoot for next to no money, about four college guys who go poaching on private property and accidentally kill the wife of an unstable man, who then tracks them down and kills them.  My thought was they'd mistaken her for a deer and it was a more action-oriented version of a slasher film.

But...while I was working out the story, one of the characters (a troubled college kid named Charlie) took off and brought a touch of chaos to the process.  He didn't just drink and have an asshole of an attitude; he played with rifles and showed flashes of chaos in his own mind.  Then he overheard just how contemptuous his buddies were of him, and that he'd been invited along on the trip so his girlfriend could leave him.  He went off to drink by himself and talked himself into blowing his brains out...but then the man and woman happen along, jolting him out of his suicidal depression, and as he watches them through his rifle scope and pretends to be shooting at them, it accidentally fires and the woman is hit.  And he is devastated.

It shifted the whole story.  Suddenly all the guys have troubles and the man's near a nervous breakdown due to problems at work and his wife is trying to save him and the drama pumped up 1000% and it winds up as a vicious battle at the end after the man has come back to his senses and only wants to help this one kid who's injured.  If it had been done right, it would have kicked ass.

But that was then and I learned more about myself than I really wanted to on the project.  The one good takeaway was, I started trusting my characters...because they could reach into places I didn't even know existed and we'd wind up in this sort of zen space that would only barely register on my brain.  That's how I wound up writing a novel about an ex-con who's survived a hell of an existence and, while trying to get even with the world for having been treated so badly, he winds up a killer and destroying himself.  I lived nothing in that book's story, nothing at all, but it was still brought to me by Curt, the ex-con.  And I'm proud of every damn word in it.

I don't know if this is madness or me just being arrogant about how great and wonderful I am for being able to listen to the muse.  I may be killing it just by talking about it.  I don't know.  I just know it's finally giving me the confidence to think I actually CAN write a story about an Irish Catholic kid living in Derry between 1956 (the year he was born) and 1981 and make it work.  All I have to do is listen.

And wonder if I'm also having a touch of the Alzheimer's.

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