Creation. It’s a process both universal and unique. We all create with words, or cameras, or music. That’s universal. But how we go about it is unique to each and every one of us.
I speak often here about the inspiration found in music and photography. I know my storytelling would be lost without it, while some of you dear friends have mentioned the need for silence while writing to be free of distractions. Reasonable, I suppose.
But one thing I’ve never been good with is a plan. Oh, I’ve had them. I’ve made them for National Novel Writing Month projects so I can barrel through the major scenes and reach that precious 50,000 word goal. I’ve used them in the revision process so I can figure out where the plot went wonky.
When I’m writing an untimed rough draft, though, I loathe them.
So of course, I’m now working with one of the planniest planners out there, Michael Dellert.
Michael created his Matter of Manred universe several years ago, but more recently brought it to the page with his books Hedge King in Winter, Merchant’s Tale, The Romance of Eowain, and The Wedding of Eithne. Michael knows his characters inside and out. He knows the land and all its settlements. He knows the population of each settlement and how much they earn. Hell, he even knows the weather on any given day.
Me? I don’t know the weather until I need the weather to do something. I don’t know my characters until they speak up. I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen over the next hillside until they get there.
And somehow, these two different creative methods are going to make a cohesive story?
I admit, when Michael first approached me about co-writing a short story, I couldn’t help but think of a story told on Milwaukee radio years ago about “tandem writing”…
“It’ll be fun,” Michael promised.
“Eowain and the Boar” will tell of King Eowain’s mysterious hunt into enemy territory accompanied by his men and my Shield Maiden Gwenwledyr. He sent me a character list, a plot outline. Information about hunting and horses. I stared at it all, rubbing my temples. When I wrote Middler’s Pride, I just went where Gwen took me. I didn’t think she’d actually make friends. I hoped she’d have a change of heart, and she did…sort of.
While I enjoy writing with Gwen’s mischievous and superior attitude towards everyone, I still get antsy working with characters whom I didn’t, well, raise. It’s rather like having a bunch of kids over for a birthday party: you want them all to get along and play the games nicely together, but you really don’t know those kids. You don’t know if they’re just going to shove each other down instead of race, or wreck one another’s airplanes before the flying contest starts, etc.
So I just did what I always do: I let Gwen blab.
You again. I begin to think you loiter about awaiting entertainment that pleases you. Well, let the records show I am no bard, fool, or minstrel. Indeed, Master Peculiar Wayfarer from—ye gods, wherever people find your attire acceptable—I am a legend in these parts. I’ve slain magick-wielders, dueled soldiers, battled cursed warriors, wreaked vengeance—
Alone? Er, no, not entirely. I had a few of my fellow Shield Maidens along with me. They helped a bit.
But that’s not why you’re here. You’re like her ladyship—you want answers about that hunt, don’t you? Can’t say I blame you. It was a curious affair, to say the least, what with the king and his—
You’re not from their side, are you? I have seen a few of them with that sort of, I’ll say, look of the hair. No?
Amazing how quickly Gwen’s voice takes over. If I let her speak, a story started to spill out. Maybe this could work after all!
But I don’t know the King. Or the other characters. Or where we’re even going.
Well, neither does Gwen. So for now I think I’ll let Gwen show me which characters she gives a toss about, and which she doesn’t even bother learning names. Somewhere in her incessant epic-weaving will be the pieces Michael needs to stitch up with his own narrator, the young acolyte Adarc. Somehow, two people who have never met in person will take two narrators who’ve never met in their universe tell a story. The story must be clear. It must ring true. It must be an experience felt in the senses and beneath.
Just like any other story.
But as the joy of storytelling is known to all, the joys felt by story-teller and story-listener are unique. And here we fade to a cold winter’s night, where a queen sits, heavy with child and fearful for her husband and king, waiting to learn the truth from two young adventurers…
“You just make yourself comfortable, your ladyship, while Master-Know-It-All Adarc finds a midwife or three to catch your child…because—well, let’s face it, your ladyship: this isn’t the happiest of stories.”
Want to hear Michael’s side of things? Click here.
And be sure to check out Go Indie Now on October 4th for a little chat Michael and I have about collaboration.