Wednesday, October 6, 2010
A Blank Page Full of Possibilities
A leaf covered wagon road through a woods can be a path of possibilities to a hiker. Who knows what might be around the bend? Deer or a hawk whistling a warning to the woods inhabitants below or a beautifully decked out maple tree. Perhaps there will be nothing but more of the same, but in this case the same is enough if I'm the hiker hearing the crunch of the autumn leaves underfoot with the autumn scent in my nose.
"We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize." (Thich Nhat Hanh)
That's true not only for a path through the woods, but also when a writer like me sits down in front of a computer and faces that blank page/screen. So many possibilities. So many directions to take. Is this the story road or perhaps only a detour? A pleasant detour perhaps, but one that doesn't lead to the possibilities of our story.
That's where I am now. Staring at the blank screen and considering the possibilities. I've written four Shaker books. All my characters made their way to my Shaker village by different roads. And now I must find another new road to travel for this next journey to my Harmony Hill. I am going to write my "what if" question this week. I am going to find a road to start down even if I have to chop down the trees of blocked thoughts to make my new road. Another quote I came across when I was looking for inspiration is this one from Jeri Ryan. "Impossible is a word humans use far too often."
I'm not saying impossible. I know I can find my right characters. I have many times before. One character already is in my thoughts - a Shaker sister who has a rich history, but she's not the main character. I see that girl, my main character, vaguely the way one might spot movement out of the corner of one's eyes. She's there, but she's not yet playing out her story in my mind. She has no name, no age, no desires. Well, that last is not exactly true. Even with her playing just outside the comfortable range of my eyes (mind) I know a few of her desires. But are they story making desires?
That is the question I will have to answer, and when I answer it I will have to keep in mind this Mark Twain quote. "Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't." I have to make my story believable. If my readers say (as I wanted to say in a book I read recently) that what I wrote could have never happened, then I've lost them. The magic aura of story over their minds has been shattered. It doesn't matter that every bit of the book is not true from Chapter one, word one. The story has to read as if it is true. Truer than truth, because amazing things can happen in real life. Amazing things can happen in fiction, but if they do, the writer better write about those amazing things in such a way that the reader is ready to say, "Okay, maybe it could happen this one time."
What about you? Have you ever walked down the magic roads of possibilities as a writer or reader and had the magic fade? Or did each new bend in the road just make the possibilities more enchanting?
Here are the winners in my birthday book giveaway. Linda of PA chose my book The Outsider and also gets The Carousel Painter by Judith Miller. Dee of VA picks my book, The Believer, (and plans to give the copy she already has to a friend, bless her!) and gets a Shaker bookmark. Sylvia of Nova Scotia wants The Seeker and also gets The Shunning by Beverly Lewis, Jo right here in KY picked Summer of Joy and will get an autographed copy of A Daughter's Legacy by Virginia Smith. Amy of MO and Marilyn M haven't let me know yet which books they want. So Amy and Marilyn if you're reading this and didn't get my "you're a winner" e-mail, get in touch. Thanks so much to all of you who joined in the fun of my birthday giveaway. For sure I'll be doing something new around Thanksgiving or Christmas. So stay tuned. Thanks for reading.