March 12, 2009: Gifts of the Girls

Last night, when I settled in to work, I fully intended to fix a bit of description I’m not happy with. It’s not particularly meaningful to the POV character, Prince Kerlis, which makes it, well, boring. I’m getting a lot accomplished by focusing on small, discrete problems like that, especially now that I’ve freed myself from the need to write in a linear way, so it seemed natural to approach a bit of revision this way.

However, the Girls in the Basement had other ideas. Instead of thinking how the bit of description should go, a scene from later in the book popped into my mind and began to unroll in my imagination. That rarely happens to me, so I thought it wise to write what the Girls had given me. (It never pays to defy the Girls.) So far I’ve got 750 words, not including the set-up information I’ll need later, which is a pretty good total for less than 24 hours.

But that’s not even the most interesting thing to me today. What kept me thinking all day was that there was something about this scene that made me think of Battlestar Galactica. It felt as if the storytelling in BSG was starting to change the way I tell stories. Not that I’m copying anything — my story’s completely different than that epic — but I still thought of BSG whenever I contemplated the scene. (If I’ve learned something about plotting from the series, I’ll be humbled and grateful.)

That being said, I think I’m reminded because, like BSG, I’m using multiple storylines. This is the first time I’ve done that — I have four viewpoint characters, twice as many as I’ve had in the past, and I have more secondary characters. Each viewpoint character has his or her own storyline and although the storylines intersect and influence each other, they aren’t as entwined as the two storylines in the romances I’ve written.

This is small potatoes compared to all the storylines running in BSG, but I think there’s one point of overlap. The writers of BSG and I are using our characters’ stories to tell a larger story. I think that’s the resemblance that’s been tickling me all day.

I don’t know if being exposed to the twistiness of BSG is making my story twistier. I’m inclined to think not, since I’ve been working on Dragonfly for far longer than I’ve been watching BSG, and it seems to me that the expansion of Dragonfly‘s scope was embedded in my original idea. That original idea had problems I could only solve with a larger story.

A while ago, I moaned to a writer friend about how long it’s been since I finished a project. I wasn’t looking for pity or solace; I was just talking about what a fraud I felt because of it. She said at the time that I’d spent all that time working on my craft, on becoming a better writer, so not to worry. There were reasons for my dry spell.

Dragonfly is so far beyond what I was capable of even two years ago that I’m finally beginning to believe what she said. As unproductive as that time has seemed, stuff was happening. And maybe one of the things that happened was I was exposed to a complex, character-driven, twisty epic that would feed my imagination and suggest things I hadn’t originally thought possible.

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