out of the ashes

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Finished Building

I'm a carpenter. I used to hate that description of myself. It implied that I was uneducated (true), crude (I hope not true), somehow less-than. But then, I thought, consider the greatest man in history. What was his occupation? Okay, it didn't hurt so badly when thought of in those terms.
So I build buildings.
I take the prints from the architect and review them. The many pages of details and sections; special instructions. All right. Then to the pages of elevations. This guy's no Frank Lloyd Wright, but I love Craftsman. It's an outline. Very specific. I can do this.
I "see" the finished product. There is a series of steps necessary to arrive there; grading, soil tests, foundation work, and so on. I follow them by rote, and in time the drawings of the architect assume life.

I'm a writer. I've always loved that description of myself. It implies that I am educated (not true), refined (I hope a little true), somehow equal to or greater than. Another illusion. Still, I think, consider the greatest men in history...

I conceive an idea. No one but myself has thought of it in quite these terms, and so I sit down to create a story. Something unique, with a wonderful beginning, a moving middle, and a fantastic ending. I've got it. I write an outline and then begin.
I'm halfway through, but going back through my working draft I see that the beginning sucks, so I remodel it. Nope, that's no good either. Screw it, I'll go back later and fix it.
Two of those secondary characters begin to wander off on me; go places I hadn't expected them to go several months back when I sketched the little bastards and breathed life into them. But, I like them better now. This means I have to go back several chapters and do some more changing. And I do. There. Now the original plot is altogether different because Delilah isn't a dweeb anymore, Anton Stump has disappeared entirely, The Sistine Chapel has died, but it's all for the better. Suddenly the set of plans is nearly useless because the story has taken on a life of its own.
Marvin HAS to face his demons, too, so I set him up for a total relapse. And what about succeeding in that quest of his? All the lectures on plotting go out the window. Someone ripped the elevations out of the set of plans! My Craftsman home is now beginning to look like a Frank Gehry creation!
That's just fine. I love Gehry's work. And, too, that's why God created the "Delete" key. I love the POSSIBILITY of this story. I stop and begin to replot with great anticipation.

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