As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have a partial manuscript I call The Chronos Project that I plan to revise.
The story is about Anna Wassar, a young ethics enforcer who works at a time-shifting facility, where historians of all sort shift to other time periods to do research in their particular field of interest.
Anna becomes aware that someone is bringing treasures from the past into the future, and that if she doesn’t stop them, the Temporal Ethics Commission will shut down the Chronos Project.
Anna shifts to 1940s Germany in pursuit of her suspect, and things do not go well.
Okay, not a bad premise. Maybe a bit Timecop, but the theme is different and I like it.
A number of years have past since I wrote the first version. Hey, I even tried a second version, and one hundred and twenty thousand words into it I still couldn’t make it work. Time has passed and I am ready to give it another try.
I printed the whole thing and began to read it back to front. To my surprised I have many excellent scenes, and surely I can…but Anna, Anna doesn’t have enough agency, and what about the murder bus and the children at Görden at Brandenburg an der Havel? How am I going to make that all fit?
Never mind. I’ll be systematic. I will separate the story into point of view sections (there are five–OMG, way to many?) and then I will read each section and see if I have a decent character arc for that character and we’ll go from there. Right. That’s a plan.
Days pass and I don’t work. “Nope, will not,” says that recalcitrant brat in my head. “Can’t, can’t, can’t. Won’t! You know what? I don’t really like writing. I don’t want to write, anymore. Heck, I’m retired. I don’t have to do hard work and I won’t. Done. I’m done.”
Except that I begin to wake up dreaming writing. Yes, thoughts in another characters head, third person.
Then this morning in my journal:
Sunday, 3 June, 2018
It was the third of June another sleepy, dusty, delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton and my brother was bailin’ hay*
And I’m there. Yes, in the Mississippi delta, but no, not only there, but where ever the work is hard, where the air smells of fresh-mown hay, where dust lifts off a roadway and hangs in the air, where heat shimmers in the distance of—my daddy’s farm. I’m home.
In an instant I remember others who catch me like that. Stephen King is one. Always, his words make me feel as though I’ve lived them myself. I’m two-hundred and eighty pound, gay Julianne Vernon, in my pickup truck, horse trailer behind, driving down a quiet highway. In the distance I see a car stopped on the roadside, and I know what to do. I’ll stop and lend a hand. It’s what I do, what I’ve always done. It will be my undoing, but I don’t know it yet.
I look over my Facebook feed and I see a post by a printing company. It’s a link to a blog post by Meribeth Deen. Meribeth talks about writing mentors and how we all need one, and maybe if we copy their words they’ll bring us to our words, and—ding, ding, ding.
That’s how it works, creativity. One small thing leads to another thing, and still another and these things spiral and gather, swarm, swoop and excite and suddenly you can’t wait to write, to paint, to dance your dance and sing your song.
*In 1967 Bobby Gentry wrote and performed Ode to Billy Joe and I loved that song. Bobby sang it beautifully, but what I loved most was the story. A whole and complete story in the lyrics of a 4 minutes song (it was longer in the original writing). It had everything necessary for story, including a mystery. What were Billy Joe and that girl throwing off the Tallahatchie Bridge?