Friday, July 29, 2016

Ripples

Now Playing: X Ambassadors - Renegades

Water was always an important motif of Millennium Girl. 

It was accidental at first, then it kept resurfacing the more the story unfolded. As I wrote on, it came down to one image: crossing worlds as one would cross an ocean. In rewrites, I've managed to incorporate it more. Seeing as the story now officially takes place in Chicago, I figured it'd be rude to ignore Lake Michigan.

I have a scene where Lilith runs out to the Lakefront Trail after a somewhat frightening (if brief) encounter. It's after midnight and so quiet that all she hears is the lapping waves and her own strained breathing. The water is pitch black, somehow darker than the sky. She stares out to the specks of light on the horizon. Off to her left, far in the distance, the skyscrapers of Downtown Chicago are lit, their reflections on the lake trembling.

I added that scene a while ago. Haven't gone back to reread it yet, because rereading it means editing and I need to push forward for this round.

Then last night, Red--the boy of colors and rain--drove me to a spot in view of the Biscayne Bay, in one of those neighborhoods that force you to notice the beauty of perfectly constructed homes. At the end of the road--after a dozen or so houses that, as he pointed out, grew grander the farther we traveled--there was a secluded little beach crowded with rocks and algae.

It was after midnight, silent except for the black water crashing against the rocks on the shore. We tried to climb those rocks (swaying and unstable) under the blinking eye of a lighthouse or a boat--just another speck of light on the horizon. To our left were the skyscrapers of Downtown Miami, illuminated, their reflections somewhat faded by the great distance but trembling nonetheless.

As I stood there, trying to maintain my balance and separate the dark water from the night sky, I thought about the only book I'll ever write that will take place in Miami. And I imagined Ramin--of Death Awakens--bringing Lola there for the first time. It'd be on a school night, during the late hours that blur two days into one and somehow speed up time so you don't notice when Thursday ended and Friday begun. I'd give them a bottle of Jack Daniel's and a joint (just the one), and Ramin would open with a variation of the amusingly morbid line Red used when he was bringing me over the greenery and past the No Trespassing sign. "So if you ever need a place to murder someone . . . ."

Today, I was drafting Lola's scene based off my recollections from the night before. Halfway through that, I remembered Lilith's and the details I focused on.

It's a moment that connects us now, Lilith, Lola, and I. And it's very strange because two of us aren't real and the one who should have been leading ended up in the middle. I have never seen Lake Michigan, never been to Chicago, so every single description I incorporated in that scene was built off research and photographs shared on the internet by strangers. But if I'm very, very, very lucky, both Lilith and Lola will have their stories published, and if I'm infinitely luckier, someone will read both books, one after the other.

So I wonder if that hypothetical reader will notice a parallel, and I wonder if they'll think it was intentional.

It made me think of something else. It's a small, inconsequential example that doesn't mean much on its own, but I think it's still applicable.

There are a lot of narratives about the creative process. The way this plays out according to those narratives is as such: Red takes me to the secluded beach with the murmuring black water, and I write about it for two heroines in completely different situations, completely different cities, completely different worlds.

Those narratives and cliches about the creative process are often wrong. It's silly to think the only way one can write about something is to first experience that something. Writers draw from real life inspiration all the time, but the human mind is capable of a great deal of imagination. And through that imagination, a great deal of perspective.

I have a lot left to experience, and while I'm sure those experiences will influence my writing, it's also nice to know I haven't necessarily needed them yet. I haven't needed to live through a million different moments to ensure I could write. If anything, the writing came first, and life came second, and I appreciate it all the more in that order.

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