I was talking yesterday with someone about what goes through my head when I’m working on a book, and I guess it can seem kind of odd to someone who doesn’t live that way.
Strangely, I have both a movie playing in my head and narrative, at the same time, so it’s like a movie that contains voiceover narration that covers everything. I both see the action and hear the words describing the action, though sometimes it varies. Earlier in the process, there may be bits that I see, and then I find the words to describe them. Or I may have just the narration, like in cases where the narrator is talking about thoughts and feelings, and later figure out where these things fit in the action, and then the movie scenes will build.
I never really see a complete “movie” straight through. I see scenes, and not always entirely in order. They may repeat in different ways until I feel like I’m getting them right. I’ve seen some of the opening scenes for the story I’m developing now in multiple ways, sometimes adding stuff and sometimes subtracting stuff as I figure out how they should really go. At times, the “movie” remains the same but the narration changes. That’s when I’m figuring out the exact words.
Not all the scenes in the “movie” make it into the book. Some are backstory that doesn’t need to go in the book but that I need to know. Some are figuring out the characters — again, stuff I need to know but that may not belong in the book. Some are just figuring out the world. Right now, there’s a scene I really like because it says so much about the world and the characters, and it’s just really lovely imagery, but I suspect it won’t go in the book because it’s really just “ordinary world” stuff and doesn’t push the plot forward. It only delays getting to the main action, so it may have to remain a memory for the character that doesn’t play out “on stage,” so to speak.
The other thing that tends to happen to me is that I find myself seeing the world through my main character’s eyes. One of the traits of this heroine is that she’s really good with animals, at a supernatural level. They instinctively like and trust her, and she’s good about sensing what’s going on with them, but she’s not conscious of this as a special gift. It’s just the way she is. Well, yesterday I went to lunch with someone, and while I was waiting for her, I was admiring the aquarium in the restaurant lobby. It was a floor-to-ceiling pillar, and the fish were huge, most of them about the size of my hand. They all rushed over to where I was standing, reminding me of the way dogs act when you visit their home, clustering around you and seeking attention. Some even turned so that their eyes were facing me directly, making eye contact with me. I found myself thinking about how all animals seem to be drawn to me — and then I remembered that was the character, not me. I suspect the fish thought they were about to get fed, so there was no mystical bond happening.
Right now, I have at least bits of “movie” for the first third of the book, and a few random scenes from later in the story. I need to start developing the secondary characters, but otherwise, I think I’m about ready to start writing. It’s a good sign that I find myself thinking so much about these people and their world, but it does make “adulting” hard when I just want to play in my story world. Yesterday was busy, with a business lunch, some errands, and then a meeting in the evening. Today I don’t have to go anywhere, so I can wallow in my imaginary world.