16 January, 2013

(idea generation)

So here I sit in my bookstore,  coffee within half an arm's reach, staring out the large window at the falling snow. Norah Jones is singing to me over the store's speakers, and I am surrounded by people clutching onto books as if they were lifelines and sipping piping-hot beverages of their own. Take away the snow and I'm in heaven.

As I'm looking out the window, I daydream. It has been quite a number of years since I figured out how important it is for someone who calls himself a creator to while hours away lost in thought, so I spend a significant portion of each day doing just that. I hope to always be a creator.

In the middle of my imaginings, it occurs to me that I'm (yet again) approaching a week without putting up a blog, and I start to panic. I'm apparently not doing as well as I had hoped in improving my consistency, but I hope we can just chalk it up to growing pains and my still trying to find my footing in the blogging world. I just don't want to cut myself too much slack, either, for then I very well may never get anything done at all.

I do a very quick caricature of myself in the margin of my notebook while I race for ideas on what to write about, and eventually settle on the pretty lame idea of a meta-post. A blog on how I wrote the words you're currently reading. Not coming up with anything better, I dive in headfirst. (Loop back to the beginning of the blog, only with some poppy-folksy lady-singer I can'place instead of the ever-lovely Miss Jones.)

Finding that to not be sufficient to my tastes, I decide on another idea: the aspiring author who has a blog about achieving his aspirations gives an example of idea generation. The topic of idea generation could be a series of blogs in and of itself, but for the purposes of this exercise, I'll only focus in on the materials relevant to my first novel.

The very first step I take is to pick one of the hundreds upon hundreds of pre-made characters (as I generate character concepts for fun) that live in my mental catalogue,  and since I am currently going through a phase in which I prefer stories of ordinary people finding themselves in extraordinary situations, I pick a character who is as close to his original mold as possible.

The protagonist of the story I'm writing in the hopes of being published is Tristan, who started out as an alter-ego of mine. He is the source of all of my amazeballs ideas, the person who picks out my clothes, chooses what I talk about, and, at his core, is literally everything I have ever wanted to be.

However, he needs a surname, as he isn't Cher, and for that, I go through my imaginary rolodex-o-names, trying to find one that sounds good when preceded by Tristan. Not really thinking of anything good, I begin thinking of surnames that people I know have said they would change theirs to given the right motivation. One old friend comes to mind in particular, and what she said automatically becomes Tristan's surname when I remember saying that if I had the inclination to change my surname, I would change it to Halpenny, as well. (Since Tristan is everything I want to be, that became his surname as soon as I said I'd like it to be mine.)

So, we have a first and last name. It's a start, no? I don't want the story version of him to be too similar to me, so I age him about ten years and make him an English teacher--a job I've wanted for years, but put on hold (for now) to be a writer. I also gave him a wife, because average people get married between my age and his (although, if my family is any indication, it's closer to mine than his--a fact that kind of haunts me), and I just want him to be in love.

The next step is to put him in an unexpected place. This stage stumped me for a bit, as I wasn't too terribly keen on writing a blurb about Tristan in some inner-city slum or the like. I was laying in bed, thinking and thinking and thinking, when it hit me--literally. I had sneezed, bumping my head on the dresser at the foot of my bed, which dislodged my copy of the Golden Compass-trilogy-in-one-big-ass-book from the top, where it proceeded to smack me in the face.

There is no possible way for an average guy like Tristan could get to an alternate reality all on his own, so that means that someone had to put him there, which means I just created an antagonist! Kick ass. I have two protagonists, an antagonist, and a loose overview of the plot! The wheels are turning now, baby!

(Next: Refinement!)

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