I'm not in Alabama -- nor have I been for years. But I set my latest story (Half) there so that's where my mind is. I'm roaming streets I do not know, wandering a college campus I've never been to, talking to people who've lived there all their lives but who do not exist except in my head.
I chose Birmingham (and neighboring Tuscaloosa) for this story for a couple of reasons -- one is that all of my stories (so far) are either set in the south or the main characters are southern (and are in a fish-out-of-water circumstance somewhere else) -- and, up until now, I had not used Alabama. It's a personal choice I've made again and again -- the old maxim "write what you know" rings true. And, honeychild, I do know the south. Born, bred, raised and all that jazz.
Another reason I chose Birmingham is because my muse hails from there. Anybody who's been kind enough to read some of my work, knows that I always have a "face" (for most characters) which serves as my jumping off place. That face drives me and fills in the blanks until the characters take on a life of their own and I no longer need that vision to keep me going. A habit of mine, though, is that I'll take a few bits and pieces from the muse's real life and spread it throughout the story. In this case, not only do the majority of scenes take place in Birmingham but there's also a good bit about The University of Alabama, which happens to be my muse's real-life Alma Mater.
I'm always careful, if I know something too personal about my muse, that I don't include it. What I will include, for example, was the flair for the Spanish language that I gave Nathan in my story, Blue. The reason -- because my muse for Nathan was British actor, Jason Isaacs -- and I knew he could speak Spanish. Not too personal but just a little tweak I could add to a character that I might have never thought about otherwise.
Not that any of my muses would ever read anything that I've written but I have to admit that I'm always a little bit leery that, if they did, they might get offended by some of the personality traits I've given the characters which I've based on them. Trust me, those are completely made up. I don't want any reader to think, either, that I know something that nobody else does. I do not. The face may belong to somebody but the story is mine.
I've been writing, editing and posting stories for years now -- some people tell me I should be published -- and I certainly wouldn't mind -- but I don't know if it's in the cards. It's not something that worries me excessively -- I write because I love it -- and when I'm writing, the real world tends to get left behind while I inhabit the fictional one -- the sink stays full and, each day, I have to search for clean clothes because the laundry gets left in the dust (oh, yeah, that, too) when the voices are continuously saying, "Write this down. Now."
It always amazes me how things come together in a story. I fret over how I'm going to get from Point A to Point B -- and then suddenly, I'm there, and it's all worked out. I've learned, over the years, how to let it go -- because, almost always, the different threads will come together -- and actually make sense. Just recently, I had a scene which I wanted to be set in a certain location but every indication told me that it could not be set there and I'd made up my mind to accept that it would have to take place elsewhere. But one simple conversation between characters put the scene right where I always thought it should go. It's not me, though, it's them.
There are other things which make me struggle as I write -- like trying to figure out what city some of the other portions of the story should be set -- then finally, realizing, of course that's where -- another tribute to my muse. Sorry for being a little cryptic but I've only posted a few chapters and there's a lot which has to wait to be revealed.
There are things that are sometimes brought up by writing which I never expect. This particular story also concerns a mental health issue and, in thinking about it, I was swept back to my childhood and the "nervous breakdown" my father suffered when I was a small child. I had not thought about it in a long time -- the only thing I really remember is going to pick him up from the hospital. A hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It's one of those "full circle" kind of things, as if those small memories, stored in my brain, were waiting to be used for some greater purpose. Even if this isn't directly about that experience -- which included giving a ride to a hitchhiking soldier and a mynah bird (no, we didn't give a ride to a bird...but, nevermind...) -- I can put those old feelings to good use. What makes me smile -- though maybe it shouldn't -- is that in our family, Tuscaloosa became a byword for the crazy place. That was before any of us knew about being politically correct.
So, the voices which were murmuring quietly for so long have been loud and clear -- and have forced me to write more than edit (I usually do both at the same time -- while writing one chapter, I'm editing another). I'm probably one of those strange people who actually enjoys the editing process more than the initial writing -- once the story is down in its often disjointed way, it's actually a pleasure to go back and add detail or throw out what doesn't need to be there. For me, that's where the meat of the story is.
But, if you ever run into me in the flesh, and it seems like I'm not quite listening to what's going on in the world, don't worry. I am listening -- but it's probably to the voices inside my head. Sometimes, I have to tell my characters, as I used to say to my eldest when she was little, "please, two minutes of silence!"
Hush, now hush. Let me get this straight before you go babbling about something else.
I'm in love with these people. When I'm inhabiting their world, they are my world. So, cut me a little slack for not being too present in the real world -- I'm just too dang busy in theirs.
Welcome to LIS!!
As an aspiring writer, I blog about whatever happens to move me at the moment -- though some posts contain serious content, my big-picture goal is to bring a little humor into an often humorless world! Welcome, y'all, and make yourself at home! Please make sure you update your bookmarks!
When you are offended at any man's fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger...Epictetus