Sunday, January 29, 2012

In the Act of Snoozing

I posted the poem, below, several days ago. Sundays are the days I can and do indulge. I wake. I snooze. I wake and turn on NPR and snooze again. I wake. During the waking and snoozing, I think about my story. Not the writing, but the story itself. It would be nice to say I get my best ideas that way, but it isn't true. I get my best ideas by sitting down to do the work. Butt in chair, fingers on the keyboard. That's how it's done.

But sometimes, just once in a while, there is a little magic in those Sunday morning moments.

For some reason, a long time ago, I put a character, Colin, in a new suit. That suit just appeared. I liked it. I felt he should have it. But it had to have a purpose. To be able to keep it, I worked it out that his grown daughter cajoled him into buying it, because her mother--his late wife--liked to see him nicely dressed. I intended that the suit tell you something about him and his wife and his daughter.

Working out backstory is great fun. I get to write the biographies of my characters up to the moment that you, Dear Reader, meet them. Backstory is the part that doesn't actually show up in the book you're holding, but if it doesn't exist, the story will have no depth. The characters will be flat or predictable or so blah who will care?

My writing group, collectively, has let me know that they don't know how or why the young Colin and his wife ever got together in the first place. What did they see in each other? They don't seem like the inevitable couple that they absolutely have to be, to share their lives in this book.

This morning, as I moved from snooze to awake for the last time, that new suit of Colin's floated into my mind. Until then, I thought I had all the detailed backstory for this book I needed--but I didn't have the where and the how of the first meeting between Colin and the girl he would marry. Now I have it, and what they were wearing is all-important.

I like to believe that's why, forty-five years after that first meeting he got his new suit. It would be the clue I need when backstory ran out. And it's why I look forward to next Sunday's snooze.

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