Sunday, September 2, 2012

BackStory and Other Stuff

It's Sunday, and here I am, writing my blog.  Sometimes I feel like these posts are the summaries or maybe the culmination of all the stuff I write on Facebook each week.  But where FB is a blub here and there, usually something stupid like Don't cha just hate it when, as you're drifting off to sleep, you have these brilliant thoughts and then can't remember them the next day? I had the best opening sentence, and now ... it's gone (today's FB post) while this blog is a place to compose my thoughts, to calm myself and think about what it is I'm doing.  Or should be doing.

This week I've been doing research on themes in my new story.  In my real life, I should have been a research assistant to some lab geek or maybe a lab geek myself, because I love to do research, love to learn new things.  The topics I've been researching are Native American lore, and on a completely different note, schizophrenia.  I never said my stories weren't complicated.  Mythology and legend, magic and metaphysical stuff -- intangibles -- are some of my favorite topics as is everything that falls in the category of psychology and how the mind works, all intangibles, stuff we don't really know for sure.  Is it real?  Is it true?  I think that's why my writing tends to merge mysticism with mental processes.  How the two affect each other intrigues me and plays big in my stories. 

Maybe this fascination comes from the way I grew up.  My mother is... I hate to say it, but she has schizophrenic tendencies, not like multiple personalities, but like delusions of grandure (I know it's supposed to be illusions, but hers are delusions) and on the flip side, neglect of things like her appearance, her home -- her children -- while having an over inflated sense of entitlement. And top all that off with leanings toward extreme paranoia.  Basically, she's crazy, and not in a good way.

When I was growing up, I didn't know that my mother was different.  I thought everyone's mother, everyone's family was like mine.  That things could change for no reason.  That nothing could be counted on.  That nothing was real.  No, we weren't abused, at least not physically, but sometimes I think you can learn craziness or learn ways to deflect it, oftentimes in self-destructive ways,  especially when you grow up out in the country and don't have tons of outside influence. 

So, you see, I'm not the most sane person on the planet, probably wouldn't rank in the top million sanest people on earth.  I've learned a lot of defensive techniques, and yes, I pass them on to my characters.  I told someone just recently, maybe my writing group, that I don't write likable characters, that you have to get to know my characters to understand why they are the way they are, and then you build an empathy for them and want them to succeed.  Complicated, yes.  Happy, no. 

My characters are searching for happiness in a world they feel alienated by.  So I guess they are me, or parts of me.  Or I am them.  With my new story, the protagonist is part Native American.  She grew up in the Pacific Northwest, runs a stall in Pike Market, so nothing like me.  Except part of her will be me.  She's schizophrenic.  I won't tell you whether she knows it or not, because I don't know yet whether she knows it or not, but my experiences will mold her experiences. 

Today, I've been focusing on writing backstory about her and her twin brother Jeryl, about the day he dies and how she feels about it, about how she perceives her parents.  How she stumbles onto the path of schizophrenia.  All this has to be done before the story can start.  Last time, when I was writing Counting Crows (or whatever it ends up being called), I didn't write the backstory up front, and it took me a lot longer to write it than it should have.  I had to keep going back and editing the characters when one of his or her little idiosyncrasies popped up.  This time, I'm trying to be smarter, to understand the characters, at least better than last time, before I start writing the story. 

And if I do a good enough job of it, the backstory can also be published.  I've seen it done quite a few times on Kindle.  The author puts out a novel and a free novella of how we got to the story.  It worked for me.  I bought one of Amanda Stevens's novels after reading her free "backstory" novella.  I even bought a second book after reading the first.  So the effort in writing the backstory, now that we have e-publishing, won't be wasted, not that it is wasted, but you know what I mean.

With that said, tomorrow, I'm going to take pictures at a couple of Seattle cemeteries because ... (from another FB post) What do graveyards, twins, schizophrenia, Native Americans, and Seattle have in common?? My new story....

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