March, 2014

The Romance of Beginnings

1920s wedding

There’s nothing like that first moment when a writer has a new idea for a story or a novel.  It’s like falling in love, when the object of our infatuation has no faults, no complications, only endless and enchanting possibilities.  Character, setting, plot . . . they all glow with promise.  The first lines flow, the first scene intrigues us, and visions of success draw us into this new project.

It’s been said that being in love is no assurance of happiness in a marriage, but that attempting marriage without it is a doomed effort.  There’s a strong analogy with a fictional concept.  Those first pages are easy.  The work begins when we try to make a cohesive whole, building a good strong fire out of the spark of imagination that got us started.

“In sickness and in health” is the way the traditional marriage ceremony goes.  In creating a work of fiction, the same principles apply.  We discover that our characters are two-dimensional.  We write ourselves into a plot corner.  We find–in writing historical fiction–that our timeline is wrong, or that the characters we wanted to use weren’t actually anywhere near our setting when we need them to be.  We learn, through research, that the cunning detail we had so looked forward to including doesn’t actually fit the period.  And now, the work of building a long relationship has really begun.

Still, the energy and inspiration of that beginning can carry us through.  It’s important to remember why we were excited, what drew us into the period or the event that made us commit to the laborious process of creating a novel.  Is it the political environment?  The social structure?  The clothes?  (I write in the 1920s.  The clothes are fabulous!)  Whatever it is that we found romantic at the outset will give us the energy and the drive to do the necessary work.

If we’re truly successful, and with a bit of luck, we can retain–or rediscover–what made us fall in love with the idea in the first place.  That will make our fiction work, and make our readers feel the same romance.

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