If your characters are not speaking to you, then you have space to work on their environment, give them a place to exist. Lovingly (or otherwise) craft rich sensory spaces wherein your characters can relax, feel alone, explore, and make their own. – My thesis reader.
I’m learning that this too, is easier said than done.
I see now, that so much of what propelled my progress during this project’s early years was the idea behind it. This was closely followed/tied to its characters, with setting or place bringing up the rear. In Characters & Viewpoint, Orson Scott Card discusses the “MICE” quotient, which an author can use to determine what sort of characterization is needed to tell their story properly. The four elements of MICE are:
Milieu – where place is the main focus, or basically a character unto itself. Lord of the Rings and Dune are the examples Card provides, and I myself throw in Rebecca, which I mentioned last week.
Idea – where the story’s structure is centered around an idea or question, and the plot moves forward in an attempt to answer it. Idea stories are most of your mysteries and “whodunits”.
Character – where a story’s main character attempts to alter his lot in life. Whether or not he succeeds is a moot point.
Event – where an action (usually apocalyptic in nature, either to the whole world or to the character’s world) occurs and the main character is tasked with dealing with the fallout. Card gives examples such as The Count of Monte Cristo and Wuthering Heights; I would add World War Z to that list. Even though the book is epistolary in its style, the one event that ties all the stories together is the zombie outbreak. (Though to be fair, World War Z might be one of those examples of a book/story that is a blend of elements, namely idea and event.)
It was while reading these pages that I tried to figure out what category my story falls into. I can remember writing the very first page of this story, years ago, and it was centered around the idea of the character I saw at the time, an angel on Earth. Since then, many of my struggles are caused by the implications of such a character, his limitations and advantages, his history, etc. This has left little to no time/energy for me to focus on the where.
I know Infernal will not be a “milieu” story, but that is not to say its setting will not be important. On the contrary, the house most of the action takes place in is essential to all the characters involved, if for different reasons. I suppose my biggest problem is giving those characters legitimate reasons to leave the house, so that it doesn’t feel like a prison to them or to my readers.
This coming week is midterm, and will no doubt send me scrambling, as I am required to turn in at least 75% of my project for approval and feedback. Pieces previously workshopped and revised are already in place (but, who am I kidding, revision never ends…!) but I will now be forced to gather together several chapters to include in my upload.
I will have something to turn in, yes, but I have come to the conclusion that this behemoth of a thesis project requires an extension. Keeping tabs on myself in this weekly fashion has helped me punch through trouble spots, and I know part of my success is due to the psychological pressure of the deadline in December.
What else will I discover, if I simply move the finish line?