Spoiler alert: in the following, I will divulge certain aspects relating to the climax of A FIELD GUIDE TO DECEPTION.
It began with an idea for a boy in a trunk. The boy would be dead. And, over time, the story of his death would unfold. And then I got bored. I never actually wrote anything for that one. Well, maybe a paragraph. It would have been set in Seattle.
And then I saw a girl on the run. A thief. She’d stolen a tremendous amount of money, and bolted. The thieving was particularly fascinating for me. I explored any number of scenarios wherein rough men would come looking for her. Bored again. Not with the thieving — the thieving got inside me — but with the inevitable hunt.
And then, I saw a woman, years later, a woman with a child, and a fairly strange, mundane task, and a cloistered, gifted life, and suddenly the whole thing sparked. So I had Claire. And she was meant to be the villain. A sympathetic villain. But a villain nonetheless.
And from those first moments, from the moments when I saw Claire, her life, and her past, and her child, I saw an accident. A horrible, tragic accident, which resulted in a girl’s death (the boy in the trunk may have influenced this line of thinking). And I saw another woman step in, take the blame, martyr herself. Of course they would have to be similar looking, a fun play on the cliche of twinkie lesbians.
I loved this notion of martyrdom. The selfless hero throwing it all away for the beautiful villain. Then I began to write. And the tone, from the first pages, didn’t work. I would make Liv heroic. I would make Claire villainous. Yet they weren’t, either of them, simply these things. They were both heroic and both villainous. They were trying. They were trying and failing and trying again. I admired them. And it occurred to me, as I wrote into Part Two, that it’s most interesting to get away with something horrible, to have to live with the consequences of your actions without any judicial punishment. To have only your conscience trouble you.
Also, it turned out, I don’t like martyrdom. I found it beside the point. Love isn’t martyrdom. I had to write that to understand it. Maybe my Judeo-Christian upbringing makes it impossible for me to leave people without the possibility of redemption, or maybe I believe that time allows expansive forgiveness. Perhaps, in my cruelty, I punished both of them for their failures in understanding. And then, rewarded them, for their love. Or maybe I just wanted a chance for Simon to explain perspective: the story we tell ourselves.
3 thoughts on “The evolving idea”
It’s complicated. It goes through one draft where everybody dies. Another where almost no words are spoken aloud. Then another. One in which there is a villain who actually murders someone, one in which he does not. There is a draft almost entirely about only one of the characters, and bits of this draft survive to be merged into the next one, reviving parts of the others.
What remains: that is the final draft, no more choice than the first draft was, but simply an evolution of hearing voices, listening, attributing, laying blame, rendering blameless, wondering.
You’ve reminded me somehow of what I like about writing.
You know, it’s interesting that you wrote about this, because as I was reading Field Guide, one of the things I thought about was the bones. I found, in the structure, many of the things you had written about here. It was fascinating to make the connections; this is how story comes to us.
Bett, that is precisely why I need a better method of organization.
I’ve got a new idea. And I’m a little suspicious of it. Of its longevity. I think this post came in order to explain my reservation to myself. But this is just process, the shaping and re-shaping of worlds.