I, like all writers, am constantly honing my craft. At a recent writing seminar I was asked to work with a photographer to develop a body of writing based on three writing prompts. I was asked to work with a photographer Yoav Horesh (http://yoavhoresh.com) and it turned into a magical experience.
Yoav and I spoke about my artistic perspective, and then he offered me three writing prompts. The prompts consisted of three scenes. Each had different restrictions, but in summary the pieces were an image with no people, then creating dialog for two people who enter the place, an object of art that gains a first person voice, and an object of art that has an imaginary artist statement attached.
When given writing assignments it has always been my policy to either use them as starts for major works (The Conspiracy of the Ravens ) started as a prompt offered by the childrens author Eric Pinder or as ways of progressing a work I have in progress. Good writing prompts are not pedantic and can easily be stretched and purposed to meet multiple requirements so that your efforts need not be thrown in the trash. As a result the writing prompts Yoav gave me were compared with a set of writing tasks I keep on my planning board.
Writing tasks are part of my work flow management as a professional author which discusses where I have work that must be completed. At the start of working with Yoav I had a considerable set of unfinished writing for the sequel to my book, the Conspiracy of the Raven. That book, a Crack in Time, concentrates on two particular characters, Rains-a-Lot and Violet LeDeoux as they chase after their friend Ivy d Seille who has seemingly gone mad and turned into a master assassin. My writing requirements for the book listed a large number of plot points and philosophical ideas that had to be communicated to the audience in a story that could be no longer than 120,000 words. Called A Crack in Time, the book supposedly covers the covert war to destroy the Earth that occurred between the people of Virdea and the power brokers of modern society.
In the middle of the book there is a chapter or two in which the main characters have captured an enemy operative (named Sharkey, an homage to the Lord of the Rings where this name is bestowed on Saruman, and foreshadowing the Sharkey characters Wormtongue-like role in one of the final scenes of the book) and are taking him with them to visit places of spiritual power in hopes that these might lead them to Ivy. The key to this chapter is that the story is not a police procedural, the characters are not modern scientists, and their search will be largely spiritual and a process of self actualization, in other words they know the truth about Ivy by learning the truth about themselves.
On my goals list for this chapter I had the following:
1. Show the casual violence that has infected the heroes
2. Demonstrate that Violet is still trying to find her heart, with her mechanical cruelties to Sharkey being a more those of an android than a woman. Despite this, show she is starting to feel human and regain aspects of her heart.
3. Show more intellectual awakening on Rains-a-Lots part, something not explored much in Conspiracy, with the confrontation of his past.
4. Show that the cowardly Sharkey has moments of humanity and even bravery in desperation. This is a setup to the scene where Sharkey has a life altering moment and defied death, based on the final moments of Fabrizio Quattrocchi and his "vi faccio vedere come muore un italiano! statement.
5. Establish firmly the spiritual journey the main characters are on as opposed to an investigative journey. Their research is not logical positivism but emotive spiritual.
6. Plot line - Violet and Rains-a-Lot must both have Sharkey escape and must be setup to meet Shockwell (a Company assassin who is also seeking Ivy) and must be nudged to the existential question of the possibility they may have to kill Ivy to stop him.
To these goals that I need to hit in the writing I had to weave inside of the dialog and actions the foundational philosophical underpinnings of the work. The Crack in Time has as a basic underpinning the writings of Rumi and a series of quotes that drive the story as a gestalt.
Reason is the shadow cast by God; God is the sun.
1. You are the universe in ecstatic motion
2. What you seek is seeking you.
3. Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.
4. Dont be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.
5 And so it is, that both the devil and the angelic spirits present us with objects of desire to awaken our power of choice.
These requirements became the outline for the response to Yoavs' writing prompts, and creative an outline for a trilogy of spiritual interactions with the objects (essentially photographs) that were the core of the prompt, and lead me to a three segment bridge chapter. My first process step was to flesh out where we were and what was happening. From my notes:
Rains-a-Lot and Violet have stolen a truck and kidnapped Sharkey. They are seeking advice from the so called spirits of the plains. Three spirits? Discovery #1 Rains-a-Lot and his violent past is used as a bridge to understand that Ivy may be on a violent present. Discovery #2 is that Ivys experience is rooted in the American experience and the war is centered on America. Also introduce Sharkey is scared of Ivy. Do we reveal Ivy killed MLK? Discovery #3 that the true goal of the killings is something deeper than violence, but the destruction of some aspect of human kindness.
This becomes the final step before writing.
The next excerpt is a process step in that it is the core of a new chapter. The reader should assume this chapter has a long way to go still. It is presented here at least four months before its book is completed, and when you actually read the Crack in Time as it finally ends up you can judge where it went from here:
Link: The Spirit of the Plains, an early version of A Crack in Time.
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