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Writing and Accumulation

We worked this morning and early afternoon on reclaiming our basement. It flooded a couple of weeks back (probably more like a month) when the sump pump broke.

We've spent the intervening days emptying out our garage of items we didn't need any longer, such as an old sectional sofa, mattresses damaged by the two inches of standing water we found, an old canopy bed. Stuff, basically, we had accumulated during the last thirteen years we've lived here, and didn't need any longer. We carried things up and out into the living room and garage, though the living room is mostly occupied by the possessions eldest daughter, Lindsey, brought home from her college apartment. Which was the original reason we were going down into the basement in the first place; we were going to store her possessions until she headed back to school this fall.

Some of the items we've found during this process are amusing. One was a collection of old pictures from my various sports teams. Baseball when I was a teenager, football in middle school and high school. Days when I had a full head of hair and sported a mustache (as a sign of rebellion against my mother). Days when I had my whole life ahead of me and the millennium, when I would turn 37, seemed impossibly distant and beyond imagining.

While I'm a decade past that mythical millennial turning point I envisioned back in my youth, I realize how all these possessions, as well as the memories associated with them, still belong to who I am as a person. I'm the sum of those parts. I'm an archaeologist, rediscovering his past.

Part of the trick in writing, especially when it comes to creating believable characters, involves exposing those historical layers to readers. Revealing them in such a way that a reader recognizes them without becoming overwhelmed. One of the problems I've dealt with in my writing involves info dumping, laying out a character's entire history in one pass as soon as they climb on the stage. What I accomplished (what I didn't accomplish actually) was creating readable prose. Sure, the language was good, the descriptions quite pretty, but it wasn't ... good enough. When I wrote my action scenes, my critters couldn't get enough. Events moved, they wanted more--and then I bogged them down with characterization.

This latest attempt on Sacrifices finally gets things right. I'm working on a chapter now where I'm introducing one of the main characters, and I've got to walk that line. I've a good opening, I'm setting him up as bit of a mystery (and hopefully an intriguing one), but I need to keep the story moving forward at the same time, keep the thread of what he's seeing/doing winding through the narrative. Because the story is pretty darn good; the critter reception was positive, even though there was some ick factor in the scene for some of them.

Time will tell whether I got it right.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 18th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC)
Nice post. Good analogy.
Jul. 18th, 2010 07:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Now I've just got to channel this creativity. ;-)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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