Friday, June 12, 2009

Settling in

by G.M. Malliet

I am at the part of the writing process I call "Settling in."

I'm at the very beginning of my tale, and really I'm just noodling about on scraps of paper with character names and place names and a very rough idea for a setting and a plot. I'm drawing maps and schematics and, most of all, just trying to get a feel for the story--waiting for that feeling of contentment to arrive, a feeling that is hard to put into words. I only know that when it's there, I'm on the right track. There's an atmosphere that feels right, and that, I hope, will translate into making the reader happy.

The Washington Post used a quote from William Butler Yeats just the other day that nicely describes this:"Take, if you must, this little bag of dreams, Unloose the cord, and they will wrap you round."

I suppose I'm aiming to surround the reader in a cozy atmosphere--a restful feeling, much like that created by the photo illustrating this blog.

There is a selfish motive behind all this conjuring effort. (This effort that looks suspiciously like procrastination but is, I've come to realize, integral to the whole crazy business of writing a book.) Apart from trying to make the reader happy, I know I'm going to be spending a lot of time in the coming year with my head inside my story, and I want that place, whatever it is, to be a good place to go. A fun place that I can't wait to visit each day. If I can visualize this place in my mind - the house or village or castle or whatever it is - and clearly bring up its colors, sights, and smells, then I know the story will at least keep me entertained for the long haul.

The characters come as the "real" writing begins: I only know that I first have to set the stage for them to appear.

And as Cricket pointed out the other day, the weather and time of year are integral to the story. That, in my case, also has to be decided before the characters can take the stage.

Question for the scribes: Do you plunge in and see what develops, or do you set the stage first?

Image of The Lee, Buckinghamshire copyright Aurelien Hayman - from the comprehensive and full-of-eye-candy-for-the-Anglophile Midsomer Murders Site


Lisa Bork said...

Gin- You're off to a great start because that's a wonderful picture. Definitely someplace I'd like to visit.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I'm a plunger - actually a bull in a china shop type of writer. Though your approach seems much more civilized.

Cricket McRae said...

Love that pic -- makes me want to jump on a plane!

I do both: write until I run into something atmospheric I need to figure out, then play with that a while and move on.

G.M. Malliet said...

The picture is so soothing, isn't it? There are hundreds like that over at the MM site.

Sue Ann - You have a lot more to juggle than I do most days, so plunging is called for.

Terri Thayer said...

I'm a hybrid. Plot til I can't go any further, then write. Then plot when I get stuck. Helps to have good people to brainstorm with.

Keith Raffel said...

Don't start writing till I have an idea, but I don't set aside any time to conjure up the idea. It's just supposed to arrive without announcement, like a free-loading relative.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I jump in with a combination of excitement and panic.

I'm a huge Midsomer Murders fan...thanks for the pic! Is it showing on television anymore? I know A & E has stopped playing it...sigh.


Keith Raffel said...

Elizabeth, Netflix has umpteen seasons of Midsomer available.

Paul Lamb said...

I've learned that I must always set the stage first. I pretty much have to know where I'm getting on the train and where I'm getting off. I may know a few of the big stops along the way, but I'll happily gaze out the window or chat with the other riders to see what surprises may come along.

Rod Duncan talks about an 8 stage writing arc. Sounds like your in stage 3.

G.M. Malliet said...

Paul- that was interesting! I here I thought I was in Stage 1.

G.M. Malliet said...

Elizabeth - The way they've interfered with showing Midsomer Murders in the US is a crime. But as Keith says, you can get them from Netflix. A bit of a delay for the most recent ones already shown in the UK, tho.