Friday, August 11, 2006

Dreaming of books

I've been distracted. I keep meaning to write about the books I've recently read, but I can't quite pull it together to write anything coherent. Actually, I've been having trouble writing much of anything at all. And I've had a fair bit of difficulty keeping a clear train of thought in my head too.

As a result of my Sentimental Journey to Georgia, I find that my aunt is at the forefront of my thoughts these days. I started to write about The Black Lyon by Jude Deveraux, which was really interesting to reread again (mostly because I didn't like it, but I remember having liked it when I first read it). But even that turned into some odd conversation in my head with my aunt about various tropes. (I do love that word, "tropes.")

I've been working on a writing project for a few months, a ghost story which is having a little trouble being a romance. I think the heroine wants it to be a romance, but the hero keeps wandering off on these odd plot-paths which can be hard to follow. (He likes ducking behind trees in the wilderness to contemplate why he's conflict-averse, and he can be hard to coax out from the underbrush. He's very sensual though, enjoying those shady mossy places. Which could be neat, I suppose.)

Ultimately, I decided that this puppy needed to get some obedience training. Both the story and the hero. (But I like the heroine, gee, who'd have thunk it? I'm really not into heroines that much.) So I sat down and outlined. I index card plotted the scenes. I added three plot devices to get them interacting With Other People. Figured out exactly how many internal perusals Mr Hero was going to be allowed, how to get him more actively involved in dialogue, and how to get this story stepping forward. I can get this thing to work structurally.

And then, I finally discovered what the deeper character problem was. Yay!

Except I'm not happy with what I discovered. Boo!


I thought that I had been writing about a ghostly hero, one who hung around the house which the young heroine had recently moved into. Still, I was having trouble figuring out WHY he had to stay there so entirely. Was he scared of leaving? Did he love the house (good idea here from a friend), or the memories of the people in the house? If he Couldn't leave, then what did that mean for the heroine? Why did he love THIS heroine? And I can't quite get past the building suspicion that he doesn't actually love her--which could be a deal-breaker, no? I've been fighting with this guy quite a bit. Ultimately, I was only clear on one thing: he was a ghost. Then I dreamt of him on the plane home from New York and learned a crucial detail about him.

(I have GOT to be the most granola-munching, mystical, woo-woo, dream-obsessed person I know. At least when it comes to my own dreams.)

In the dream, I watched him walk across a bright green meadow. He was facing away from me, wearing a dark flannel suit with an upright white collar. Looked as if he were from the early 1900s. He had broad hands with long fingers, wore a small-brimmed dove-grey hat and a silver ring with a black stone on his right hand, and he was very long-legged.

I really enjoyed watching him walk. He was fluid, even over the slightly ragged grass. His stride came naturally from the looseness of his hips, one leg rolling forward while his back stayed completely straight and untouched by the momentum of his walking. Then his lower leg would snap forward with a determination that was unexpected. Overall, his walk was a combination of a leisurely stroll and a military march. I don't remember his arms moving much at all. Hard to describe, but just intriguing to watch. He covered a lot of ground too. Very athletic, brisk, but calming too.

He walked until he came to a greenish pond. He tucked one leg behind the other, leaned to the side, and collapsed to the ground. Although the fall was awkward, and somewhat humorous, he had managed to land perfectly arranged on his side, one elbow up, head resting on hand, legs crossed.

And I thought to myself, "Well, this is all very interesting, watching him walk and fall, but what the heck is going on? I can't even see his face."

And then I thought, "Why am I thinking? THIS is odd."

I watched him by the pond for quite a while, his coat moving gently with his breathing. And that was the whole dream. He never even took off his hat.

I woke up and had a whole new perspective on the hero and on the story. Because once I was awake, I recognized him. That man in the dapper suit, the man who rests by the water, he's shown up before, although I had never seen him walk. And dammit, he's a horse.

Yeah. I know.

I have these dreams where the animals I know show up in the form they would be if they were human. I know this guy from the dream very well--although he hasn't come to visit for quite a while. (My Australian Shepherd was always a four year old boy who had come to the house unexpectedly. He was plump, freckled, with bright red hair and kept running though the kitchen. He would always "forget" to stop at the screen door, run full tilt at it and plaster himself across the screen, squealing with glee. My current dog is a laconic cattle rancher, tall, lean, and bony.)

So I looked back over my notes, my plotting, my character sketches, and dammit, I've been writing about this horse the entire damn time. Shit. No wonder he has trouble with dialogue. (And in case you haven't read any earlier posts, let's just be very clear here that dialogue makes my heart go pitter patter and is REQUIRED of romantic heroes.) No wonder he's so sensual. Damn. I really did not want to be writing about a man-ghost-horse.

Yeah, I know what you're going to say next, "But it could be cool. The heroine could be just as startled as you were." But I don't want to WRITE it. Groaaannn. (And now it's a little more confusing as to why he's stuck to the house. Wouldn't he be stuck to the barn? end of stupid aside.)

I have to set this down for a bit. The reveal itself has been thoroughly distracting to me. As was my trip to Georgia. As were the many conversations I have had recently about my aunt with other breeders.

Most times I dream about horses, they are trying hard to tell me something, but it's not always clear what that is. Sometimes I get it very, very wrong. (Like that dream where I thought they were trying to tell me that my aunt would be healed, and a year later it was very clear that the whole thing had been a dream about death, separation, anxiety, and mourning. That's the problem with divination--everything's open to interpretation after the fact.) I can't be thoroughly sure what Mr. Dapper Man Down by the Water is getting at, but he helped me figure out what I need to be working on: the stories of those guys. I'd like to intermingle them with the stories of my family and how I came to know them so well. The structure is obvious, the length is clear, the character's conflict is well-defined. I get it.

And this one is writing itself like water flowing from the town well.


meljean brook said...

Oh my god -- ROFL! A horse? Crying, I'm laughing so hard. I've got nothing good to say, except I'm envious that otherwise, the writing is flowing so well.

CindyS said...

Well shit, I was worried he was going to be gay!!

I was going to suggest that if this guy keeps hiding from the heroine then he's not the hero, he's the guy she thinks she's in love with. You haven't met the hero yet ;)

How's that for helpful from a non-writer. I really have to start charging for these bits of wisdom ;)

Totally different side, I don't dream about my pets although I can look at Cody and know he would be a perfect wastrel who would smoke and laze around. That's why he's *my* dog. Although I don't smoke - I'm equating with the lazing around ;)


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