Of Dates and Histories

I blame my high school history teacher for a lot of things.

I blame him for the fact that I’m a history major. I blame him for my compulsion to seek out primary sources. I also blame him for my use of the phrase “the blood of the innocent” on the AP History Exam (we had made it to WWII, but the test covered the Cold War. In an essay that asked me to compare Poland and Czechoslovakia during the 1950s, I wasn’t sure how many people had died, or who had died, but I was reasonably sure that there was some bloodshed, and that some of it belonged to people who were likely innocent… that’s when I abandoned historical accuracy and tried to score points with literary merit).

I do not, however, blame him for my fascination with dates. Mr. Butler rarely asked “When?” but he always asked “Why?” and “So what?” I still frequently ask myself these latter two questions, especially when writing essays, but I do like dates. Seeing how many years or even days separated events. Charting changes over time. Reading a primary source, seeing the author’s logic go out the window, and then realizing she died only days later – you can get tangled up in dates, but used well, they add so much more meaning.

Perhaps for this reason, I’ve been good at dating my own writings over the years. From 2006-2009, I had a timed writing file/journal. Every entry is dated, which means that when I see some truly awful prose, I can remind myself that I was 15… and remind myself that there’s a reason I keep most of my teenage writing in a locked trunk. My production log for Hapax has also turned into a journal of sorts. Again, it’s cool to watch events unfold: on January 9, 2012, I note, “No news from DMP yet, which I’m reading as… no news from DMP yet.” Then we hit January 11, and BAM.  

But the coolest thing I just rediscovered was the very, very early musings that would eventually turn into Hapax. I had almost forgotten how far some elements date back, which makes me feel slightly old and slow. Until I remember that I wrote three plays, an opera libretto, and had a personal crisis in between those first glimmerings and actually writing the first draft.

Some edited extracts:

19/10/07

I want to explore that balance between being emotional and being logical. Of succeeding at all costs and being human, of what it means to be human in the first place. I’ve done historical fiction, I’ve done mystery, and I’ve done fantasy. Why not Science Fiction? Or maybe… maybe there’s another way to do this.

I shall ponder.

One of the benefits of being a teenager, I suppose. At this stage of my career, I can pretty much write whatever I please. After all, none of it’s going to be publishable and I’ll learn no matter what.

21/10/07

Maybe she doesn’t have to be an android. Let’s think; the fundamental problem here is emotion vs. logic, yes? So what else is there, besides an android, which could embody that predicament?

I keep coming back to fantasy. The problem is: this is a story about becoming human. Therefore, the protagonist cannot be human, which I think restricts me to the realm of Sci-Fi.

Try this, then. A magic android. An android made not from circuitry, but from spells. Hey, if you can’t choose between fantasy and science fiction, go for both! Ok, let’s run with the magic android idea for a little.

If the MA had thoughts, would it have magic? No, no that’s just not fair. Can the two strands of SF even be successfully combined?

23/11/07 

Guess who’s still with me? That’s right. The Magic Android is still inside my head, and it doesn’t seem like she’s going to go away. She’s giving me a strong sense of herself; ironic, considering identity is partly what she’s searching for.

I’m not complaining, though! I love this; when a character comes to life and won’t leave me alone; when they demand I write something, anything; when they keep drawing my thoughts back to them… it’s absolutely amazing. But. I. Have. Stupid. Frozen. Fire. To. Finish.

Here’s my plan; I’m going to fix all the major stuff, but… I don’t have much left, from a creative point of view. At least I get further along with every novel, so hopefully I’ll be able to see this character’s story through to the very end.

 

And now, nearly five (dear Lord!) years later, it looks like I will.

PS. Joking aside, Mr. Butler was one of the best teachers I ever had. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Posted on April 23, 2012, in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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