Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Muse on Line One

by Hannah

I had my head in the dryer when the answer came to me. The dryer thing was not an act of desperation, although reaching for a white sock with pink flowers that has to be worn immediately is crisis resolution of a type. There we were, the sock and I, inside the white barrel of my dryer when I knew what would make Aunt Bets pop.

As you know from the profile on the side of the blog, I have been revising my novel for some weeks. Months, technically, but we're not going to get too technical.

Some of the changes needed were screamingly loud, and as I sat down and organized the rewrite, those slid right into place. Don't be afraid. Push it. I soon had enough to start to rewrite, so was able to ignore small pieces still missing from the puzzle. For example, Aunt Bets. She was rather blah, extremely minor, and yet I was certain she couldn't be cut. This bothered me a great deal.

Margot Livesey says that even brief, two-dimensional characters should have the potential to become three-dimensional. They need not actually pop into life at any point, but the reader should have the sense they could.

I twisted Aunt Bets every which way, but she refused to tell me what about her sweet nothingness was important. She didn't want to be mean, or snippy, or competitive, all things the plot certainly would have allowed. She didn't want a vice, hard as I tried to put a smoke or a glass in her hand.

As I stretched to reach that silly sock, it occurred to me that Bets' insistence on being perfect is precisely what rounds her out. A touch of the holier than thou makes her the perfect tool, then, through which the antagonist will reveal himself publicly, much to my protagonist's delight. I held that sock high with a huge grin.

The Muse chooses strange means of communication. It's understandable that I should receive part of my answer by sitting at the feet of Margot Livesey. That the Muse should use my dryer as a telephone, well, she's more creative than I'd imagined.


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Don't you love the quirks of the muse, Hannah? I've come to almost expect the realization in the oddest moments--just like you with your head in the dryer. I know when I'm trying too hard to figure out a character (as I am right now with one of mine--and I love how you put it about 2D characters--even if they never pop off the page, the reader needs to believe they might)--and I also know I need to back off, weed the garden or something, and the solution will come to me, usually when I least expect it.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

That was a golden piece of advice, wasn't it? It spotlit a truly subtle layer of the craft that still affects the entire piece. I not only try to write with that in mind now, but find I am aware of it while reading.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great advice here.
I'll have to remember to wear them 3D glasses at all times now.

And may the muse call you often.

Therese Fowler said...

Hannah, can you see me grinning? What a charming vignette about the creative process and the writing life.

And a good reminder that being receptive to the Muse's communication whims can serve us well. :)

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Happy to share! And Therese -- your post this week was wonderful, a much-needed reminder and boost during this trimming and adjusting phase.


Larramie said...

Have you ever wondered where The Muse lives -- i.e. within our hearts, minds or souls? Wherever it is, she's always with matter who we are or what we do.

Lisa said...

Thank you for the reminder that being present and open to inspiration and to those signs we often seek is so important. Bravo on finding one great solution in the dryer! I think I'll check the refrigerator and see if it offers up something other than lunch -- you never know where the muse might turn up next :)