#257: Better Questions

#257: Better Questions
The Bissell Tree House at John Ball Zoo, Grand Rapids, MI

I’m in Grand Rapids again, this time for a friend’s wedding. The night temperatures dip ever closer to freezing, and the trees here and back home are starting to blush yellow and orange. Soon it’ll not only feel like fall proper but look like it too.

Still no windows in the house yet. Late Friday, though, it seemed like everything was prepped for install. The plumber set up the long-awaited gas lines, and the brick work on the garage is finished. The crew also dug a trench to run power to the garage, which currently has none, and the electrician’s work is ongoing. Although I’m very much prepared for timelines to shift, I’m still itching to move in before the end of November.

Last Sunday I wrote that the big task for the new manuscript was weaving together the different storylines. I realized today that this might be the higher-level task, but the daily challenge is overcoming fear of the unknown. The resistance is strong before each writing session: What if I don’t figure this out? What if something like this has already been done and done better? What if I have to scrap most of it and start over?

These questions plague me here in the real world but don’t cross over into Storyspace, for I, the author writing the book, do not exist there.

One way, this week, of getting into Storyspace: an article collecting writing advice from Kazuo Ishiguro. Specifically, the bit about character and relationship:

I used to think in terms of characters, how to develop their eccentricities and quirks. Then I realized that it’s better to focus on the relationships instead, and then the characters develop naturally …
I ask myself: What is an interesting relationship? Is the relationship a journey? Is it standard, cliché, or something deeper, more subtle, more surprising? People talk about flat versus three-dimensional characters; you can talk about relationships the same way.

Some scenes I have started writing like so: I need these two or three characters in a room. In what kind of setting would they naturally (or maybe surprisingly) meet? What do they have to connect (or conflict) over? How do they relate to the characters who aren’t in the room?

These questions have been, maybe unsurprisingly, much more productive than the other ones.