Deborah Crombie’s Necessary As Blood

I finished Deborah Crombie’s Necessary As Blood on the bus today–it was a fabulous read, that kept me up too late for a couple of nights–and as I was finishing it, I realized one of the things I like about the series, in addition to the ones I’d discovered originally: I like the relationships between the characters. Not just Gemma and Duncan, and their children, but the ones they have with their coworkers and friends, and the relationships those people have with each other. I also read the books to see how those relationships develop, to see what happens next.

Realizing that tonight made me realize that I love the same thing in my two guilty-pleasure TV shows, NCIS and Bones, and it’s one of the many things I loved about Battlestar Galactica. I’m not sure this has any meaning for my writing, but I suspect it does. I know that I’m interested in the connections my characters have with each other. There’s a line in U2’s great song, One: “We get to carry each other.” I think that’s true; I think we carry each other through our friendships. Maybe that’s something I need to hold in mind as I keep scribbling away.

March 26, 2009: The Black Moment

I don’t have a whole lot to say tonight — I mostly spent the day puttering around with the beloved. I took today off to get ready for the New England Chapter-RWA’s annual conference, which begins tomorrow in Framingham, MA. Attendance at the conference means silence from me tomorrow and probably Saturday.

I had plans for today — updating a file with results I track, doing laundry, figuring out the black moment for Dragonfly… I didn’t update the file, but I did manage to get the laundry done, and while I haven’t entirely figured out the black moment, I did make progress.

The black moment is that point in the story when all seems lost, the protagonist destined to fail, no way to reach the happy ending. I’ve had an intellectual understanding of the concept for ages, but I only really got it when I watched the end of The Rookie, the movie about Jim Morris, the pitcher who made his major league debut at the age of 35. There’s a point in the movie when the character Morris, played by Dennis Quaid, decides he’s had enough, he’s quitting. That’s the black moment, the moment when all is lost. (Before he can quit, though, an interview he had done with ABC News is broadcast, and he’s reminded of his own dreams.)

The end of Battlestar Galactica deepened that understanding. I would say that most of the episodes of the last half of the 4th season were the series’ black moment, the stretch when it seemed as if it was never going to get any better, when it seemed distinctly possible to me that it was actually going to get worse

I was in despair, to be candid. It was a black moment for me, too, and I’m starting to think that was key. I think I need to understand things in my bones to be able to use them, and now it feels as if I get the black moment in my very marrow. I know how far I need to go to bring my story to that moment of blackness and despair, before turning it towards the light. I just need to figure out how to get there.

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.

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September 14, 2008: Filling the Well

Yesterday’s silence wasn’t because I was having a silent day — it was because I wasn’t home. As usual on a Saturday, I hung out with my middle sister, running errands, finishing up with a marathon viewing of the Season Four episodes of Battlestar Galactica she’d captured with her DVR. 

At one point, after a particularly twisty twist, I turned to her and said, “I want to write stories like that when I grow up.” On some level, I believe that if I could pick BSG apart, it would be a master class in plotting and characterization. Among other things, the series doesn’t let me slot characters into Good Guy/Bad Guy buckets — everyone important is a little of both. And everybody is changing — but how could they not, faced with everything the writers have flung at them?

Which is a lesson unto itself: fling things at your characters to make them grow and change. The growth and change are your character arc, which lies at the heart of your story.