On Writing and Emotional Movement

Over the past week — and more intensely since Saturday — I’ve been working on an outline for a novel. It’s… interesting stuff.

To be honest, I know that it’s not working. To be slightly more specific, it’s not working the way I want it to. The story is developing in interesting directions, but the plot is resolved more by the way the situation develops than by the actions of the protagonists, and the concept around which I built the story, the concept I thought would be fascinating to explore, has become sidelined. A rethink is in order. I’m just not certain how extensive a rethink at this juncture.

Sometimes, on the commute via subway and light rail I have ideas. I jot them down. I carry a notepad for precisely that purpose. Honestly, the act of carrying a notepad and pens makes me feel a bit like a reporter, checking my notes, getting the story straight, playing the crusading journalist.

This evening, rolling the story around in my mind, trying to work out the plot kinks, an idea struck with terrible force.

It didn’t fit the story, at least not the way I’d developed it (and had seen it developing).

Instead, it was more of a scene, as though a camera were following through the narrative. It was a character — female(?) — walking through a museum. A layer of dust lay across the floor. The floorboards creaked from age and disuse. The character, alone, studied the paintings, and moved from room to room, trying to understand the people who had created these works of art.

What struck me was not the vividness of the imagery I envisioned in my mind. Rather, it was the character’s emotional reaction to the scene. There were feelings of profound loss and regret, all in that singular vision. It was as if this character, whom I don’t even know, were alive inside my mind, seeing these things, feeling that reaction. And through that character, I felt that. It was simply… moving.

It’s taken me a few minutes to type this out, find the words that conveyed the sense of feeling I had. It was brief, only a handful of seconds.

The scene, as I saw it, doesn’t fit the story I’m writing.

Maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll have to save it for something else.

It was strange, to feel it the way I did.

I wonder if other writers feel their stories. It’s a strange sensation, I’ll grant you that. 🙂

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