Yesterday I said we would talk about how to choose a starting place. In other news, I am super-duper angry at one of my children, who is attempting to inflict toxicity on the whole household. And I could probably go on an hour’s long rant on that situation. But I shall contain my wrath, and talk about choosing a starting place when beginning original material.
But . . . Gossip Is Exciting! What’s Up With The Kid?
I’ll just say, never accidentally expose your minor children to abusive assholes. Because some of your children will copy the abusers. And that’s miserable to clean up, as a parent. Now, let us be productive and talk about choosing a starting place. First, know that as a human who has, presumably, lived among other humans for some length of time, even if you isolate yourself now, your mind and spirit have absorbed a startling amount of information.
I Want To Hear More About This Fight With Your Kid, Victor
You can think of yourself, in a manner of speaking, as an encyclopedia of relationships, contextual behaviors, and personality types. For ease of use, I shall define my meanings.
- Relationships The energy balance and emotional exchange between two or more humans
- Contextual Behaviors The link between body language, vocal tone, and past actions
- Personality Types Recognizable kinds of aggregate traits; as in, the biker, the floozy, and the straight-laced go-getter with a tidy ponytail
Your mind and body, after years of intimate exposure to and immersion with a wide variety of energies and relationships, has become a treasure trove of buried knowledge.
To choose a starting point for your original fiction, all we need to do is access one small part of your internal encyclopedia of knowledge.
I’m Getting Kinda Lost, Victor. Tell Me Something Juicy
You know when Jack and Martha are coworkers, and every time they’re in the same room, all the eyes of their fellow employees are sorta-kinda following them? Because everyone else can feel a buzz of energy following the two of them, and passing between their bodies?
Jack and Martha often feel they are being exceedingly discreet. What they are usually not counting on is the massive, splashing arc of intimate energy that spurts out of them until they break up or sleep together. Or until Jack’s girlfriend figures out what is going on, and gives him a stern talking to, after which the energy spurts from him vanish, and Martha becomes the pitiable leftover sad-puppy-woman in the office.
Gee, Victor, That Sounds Pretty Harsh
Don’t feel too bad for Martha; she’s been stringing along her “best friend” and her sometimes-boyfriend for months now, on the off chance that she could succeed in tempting Jack away from his girlfriend, who is on the brink of proposing to him. Martha has been milking her “best friend” for free rent and milk money for two weeks now, and giving him subtle, plausibly-deniable hints that she will eventually succumb to his steadfast charms.
She has no intention of ever getting together with her “best friend,” but he is stable and relatively well-off, and she regards him as her personal cash cow, and has ever since she helped him fend off that red-haired teenager girl who was stalking him. Martha feels she has proprietary rights to “best friend’s” attention and resources, because red-haired teen was getting pretty close to seducing “best friend,” and teen’s dad was a cop.
Um, Now I’m Pretty Distracted. Tell Me How To Choose A Starting Point
Close your eyes and imagine a name. Any name. Here, I’ll do the exercise with you. Hmmm . . . Joff. Sounds weird. I’ll change it to Geoff; too boring for science fiction. Joz. Sure. Okay, my guy’s name is Joz. (As you formulate the name, your mind will automatically begin to assemble an organic energy around the name; this energy will “feel” very gendered in your mind. I’m not saying it will feel necessarily male or female, but the energy will taste very specific to you.
What Do You Mean, Specific?
Joz is like night air under stars; he’s never been deeply in love, and his arms often feel restless, like he wants to climb some impossible cliff face until his body trembles with exhaustion. Some energies you feel out may be alien; some may be base and motivated purely by instinct.
Now, we have a name, and a taste of energy. Let’s plop Joz down somewhere. Close your eyes again, and imagine that you are your new character. Feel the sounds and taste the smells around you; let your skin experience the sensations in the space where your character is.
If this feels overwhelming in any way, choose one sense. I’ll focus on smell, as an example. Joz is in a place that smells extremely humid; there is a lot of young growth mixed with rich decay, and the smell of bark and last night’s rain. Once you have a fix on one sense, add another, and another, until you have a fuller picture.
Okay, I Have A Character And A Place; What Happens?
All you need now is for your new character to want something. It doesn’t have to be a big something, though it can be. Joz, in his overgrown mass of tropical foliage, is very hungry, and he wants more than anything in the world to eat—well, drink a cup of cinnamon hot chocolate out of a white ceramic mug.
That craving has been hovering in the back of his mind for almost a week, and the itch is starting to distract him from his current mission, which is to retrieve an artifact from a fallen S’kildore ship and obtain the hefty reward. Joz can feel himself losing focus; his tongue is continually pressing gently against his lower teeth as he unconsciously imagines the almost-scalding chocolate running over his lips. He swallows often, and he is gradually becoming irritable.
Now, Go And Write
You have a character in a place, and plenty of material to write a scene. You even have an overarching objective (get to some outpost where he can buy chocolate, and maybe even a mug).
There you go! A character, a setting, and a direction are all you need to begin some fantastic new writing. You can use this exercise endlessly; your inner knowledge of humanity will never run dry. The more you write character, the more sensitive you will become to nuance, and the more you will find you know.
You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books are here. Today is Tuesday, and my cat is napping by the window.