Monday, March 18, 2013

Class of Character: Creating music through prose

So, casting has already begun for this new project. Truthfully, it started back in 2002-3 when this idea first ‘rough drafted’. You know my process. Let’s get the characters together, the actors for this grand drama. The easiest cast and crew I’ve ever had to assemble is a tie between A Company of Moors and Code-47. There’s a lot of characters based off of people I know. But they’re not carbon copies, and I don’t always cheat like that. You do want to draw from what you know. People you know. But you also want your characters to be round by being themselves. Let them stand out as players in your production.

The characters in The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn have been the most fun to put together (so far) of my published works. The first challenge came with the names. In the original screenplay, all the characters’ names were different. Only 35 pages were written. These rough pages, scripted around 2002-3, and revised in 2004-5, would become the first chapter. The story also took place in a modern setting. Between 2003 and 2004 I hammered out ideas for the main character’s emotional arc, his name, as well as the name of other characters. A lot of what I wrote as notes for later scenes for the screenplay was tamed drastically. It was a little over-the-top, but the idea of the main character’s sanity being challenged was kept as a possibility up until I started looking closer at my notes before outlining the GoGH for actual literary ‘production’. This was about December 2010. By this time, the main character’s name was finalized. Horatio Peters. The sanity arc melted into a drive for discovery. He became focused and willing to process and accepts the answers given to him. This shapes Horatio to become a leader, which reflects in his Son Dial Tone past life as a slave that leads a rebellion against his masters and the plantation. His leadership folds into his current life to put a stop to the villain of the story, his father’s murderer and the destroyer of lives.

Jonathan Gregory Concheroot, Horatio’s wingman and best friend, had many changes. First his name (which I can’t recall) changed, and also his occupation. He first started off as a hired detective, helping the ‘Horatio of the screenplay’ seek the answers he was looking for. They were strangers at first, Horatio having sought him out because he was affordable. Then they were friends, and both from New Orleans. Horatio, knowing that he was delving into something ‘strange,’ sought the detective because his family had a background in that sort of thing. Then, it was the detective’s ailing wife that motivated the detective to take the case (all background information, and nothing shown within the screenplay). So, this ‘Johnny’ had a wife who was very ill, and his motive for helping Horatio was payment to get his wife proper treatment and service. When it’s learned that ‘Horatio of the screenplay’s’ father’s horn is magical, Johnny believes it can heal his wife.

‘Johnny of the screenplay’ was always some type of musician, originally a guitarist. It was the love of music that bonded these two together, but to the ‘Johnny of the screenplay,’ his musicianship was simply a hobby. That changed, and he also switched instruments and became a piano man, like his father. At one point in the process of creating the character, Johnny Concheroot, became Horatio’s cousin. Then the relationship between Horatio and Johnny went back-and-forth between childhood friends to being family. Johnny’s sick wife became his sick mother, and then the sick mother became Horatio’s sick mother, which demoted Horatio’s mother a bit and promoted Johnny’s. In the screenplay, Horatio’s mother is the one tasking him, like a queen commanding a knight-prince. Horatio has reached the proper age to claim the things that are rightfully his. But, as it stands now, she’s dead by book’s beginning. We get to know her character through flashbacks. Johnny’s mother, on the other hand, is alive and well. She’s the connection that both Johnny and Horatio have to the days of their fathers’ lives. And now, Johnny is a single man who loves the life of music, gambling women.

Then I separated the Horatio and Johnny by distance and association with one another. Johnny was regulated to Brooklyn, and Horatio was regulated to New Orleans. As I created more notes for Johnny Concheroot, getting closer to actual writing, I made Johnny Concheroot’s father ‘responsible’ for Horatio’s father’s murder. This created a motive for Johnny to meet Horatio when Horatio’s mother passes. Johnny wants to settle the hurt inside him that he carries; the guilt of his father’s actions against Horatio’s father. Johnny’s mother is also hurt, living in Brooklyn thinking of when times were better. And Johnny’s father is in jail, slated for release within the next couple of months. This leads to an ultimate confrontation between father and son, and Johnny having to work his emotions out before speaking to his father.

There was never a thought toward the possibly hinting to the reading audience that the relationship between Johnny and Horatio could go the same way as their fathers. This was a different friendship, a different course. A new day and age. Tell that arc. Not everything should mirror or even hint at a parallel. It’s a little too cliché. To an amateur writer, that could be tempting. Heck, even to an experienced writer. And, could it be done and written well? Yeah, sure it could. Anakin and Luke Skywalker. But now, because of that cool story, it’s just too obvious from its foundation. Oh no! Could these two friends end up like their fathers???????? Oh, wait…Johnny learned his lessons by seeing his father’s mistakes. Bless him. Or, he made the choice to betray Horatio. Oh, no!!!!!! Just like his father…

“Take your father’s place at my side.”

Look at Michael Corleone and Vito Corleone. Two different types of leaders, bosses, but they’re father and son. And although Michael seeks his father’s advice in The Godfather, and even in The Godfather 2, Michael wonders if he’s making the proper decisions in line with what his father would do, he makes decisions he believes are right in his situation and it draws him away from being the man his father was. Michael’s style of leadership comes from his days as a soldier in the army. In The Godfather novel, Vito stops big wars by making a point through graphic, strategic hits, or a simple hit. The kill makes a point, people back away. Michael wipes out all his enemies. He doesn’t even care if that includes his brother.

So, I considered that Johnny is his own man, made up of two different people. One of those people, of course, is his mother. And he just might’ve picked up some things after having been raised by her. And so, he’s different simply because of that. There’s a possibility that he might not be shackled completely to the personality of just one of his parents. Thank God for that.

But Johnny is more than Horatio’s wingman, or rather, there’s greater significance with his name. He is the Conqueror Root. The African Prince, High John the Conqueror. He is that magical herb named after the mythology of the African Prince, High John.

“High John the Conqueror is associated with a certain root, the John the Conqueror root, or John the Conqueroo, to which magical powers are ascribed in American folklore, especially among the hoodoo tradition of folk magic… John the Conqueror was an African prince who was sold as a slave in the Americas. Despite his enslavement, his spirit was never broken and he survived in folklore as a sort of a trickster figure, because of the tricks he played to evade his masters. Joel Chandler Harris's 'Br'er Rabbit' of the Uncle Remus stories is said to be patterned after High John the Conqueror. Zora Neale Hurston wrote of his adventures ("High John de Conquer") in her collection of folklore, The Sanctified Church. She also makes reference to the root in Their Eyes Were Watching God…The root known as High John the Conqueror or John the Conqueror root is…related to the morning glory and the sweet potato. It has a pleasant, earthy odour, but it is a strong laxative if taken internally. It is not used for this purpose in folk magic; it is instead used as one of the parts of a mojo bag. It is typically used in sexual spells of various sorts and it is also considered lucky for gambling. It is likely that the root acquired its sexual magical reputation because, when dried, it resembles the testicles of a dark-skinned man. Because of this, when it is employed as an amulet, it is important that the root used be whole and unblemished. Dried pieces and chips of the root are used in formulating oils and washes that are used in other sorts of spells.”

It’s also mentioned in many blues songs, “I think I go down, to old Kansas Stew – I'm gon’ bring back my second cousin – that little Johnny Cocheroo.” It was this line from Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” that was the inspiration for the pairing way back when the story was forming into a screenplay. The horn’s power was going to be the ‘magical root’ that the ‘Horatio of the screenplay’ was going to give to the ‘Johnny of the screenplay,’ – the magic to heal his wife (and then later, when the character was changed, Johnny’s mother). This was also the reason why I went back and forth on having Horatio and Johnny as cousins. But, a while after settling on using the name Johnny ‘Concheroot’ (which went through various spellings) I thought instead of bringing his cousin (or friend) a magical root, his cousin (or friend) would symbolically be the magical root.

In The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, true magic doesn’t manifest, and Horatio doesn’t have a means to travel his spiritual path until Johnny Concheroot (the conqueror root) appears. It’s also the real reason why in his past life he’s referred to as Li’l Chew, and his catch phrase throughout the book, “Morning glory and sweet potatoes.” And it explains why he’s a lady’s man, his mother telling him that he goes for anything with a skirt. There was also supposed to be more written for Johnny as a gambler, but there wasn’t time. We can see, in Johnny’s past life, much like the African Prince, High John the Conqueror, once enslaved, he’s a trickster, and the one to bestow Mojubo Kimoyo with the significant legends and mythologies that helps them flee once they stage their rebellion on the plantation. His character is the symbolic kick in the ass Horatio needs in either lifetime to get his adventure and rites of passage moving in the proper direction…or moving at all. And, of course, when Horatio and Johnny team up as musicians and go on their travels playing small juke joint after small juke joint, Horatio indulges in the company of one woman after the next. Sex magic. Johnny’s charisma and ‘Brooklyn swagger’ even charms Sarinda Fallows, though nothing but innocent flirtation comes from it. There’s a slight irony to the characters of Johnny and Sarinda in regards to his past life, though it’s not focused on much.

Moving along, we have the three generations of women from Water Bug Hollow. Interestingly enough, this idea was originally in a comic book universe I’d created. In The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn screenplay, the female protagonist was named Noire. This was only a placeholder name. She would eventually become Delia-LaRue Amat, the last of the three women. In the screenplay, she was a painter as well as a singer. I dropped the painter part and gave that talent to her father. I then took the storyline from a comic book universe I’d created, and like her mother and grandmother before her, she was a profound singer. The trials and tribulations for her mother and grandmother (Theresa Amat, the grandmother, getting the most attention, and headlining the second act of The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn) were also worked to be presented as believable. This is where we have the emotional weight, the punch in the gut to the audience.

One thing I did for each woman was scale back some things. Theresa fights her drug addiction and becomes a prominent figure and voice in town politics. This led to the sort of ‘side quest’ and completely adhoc written plot points where Theresa deals with the reactions to her decisions on town politics. This didn’t happen originally. But I figured it needed to happen, and it gives a ‘Luke Skywalker lifting the X-Wing from the swamp’ impression. Water Bug Hollow’s future looks bright with Theresa as acting Matriarch of the community, under her moniker ‘Mamma Indigo’. But Sarinda Fallows makes sure otherwise. I also had Theresa fight her drug addiction because she was pregnant. And the child inside her couldn’t be unharmed simply by the effects of the veil, and Theresa’s continued ritual involving the garment. I had to show the character give a conscious effort to fight her addictions, using all the rituals and family hoodoo she could conjure.

Theresa’s daughter, Philomena, was supposed to be far more bitter for the things that happened to her as a teenager. I even had dialogue written for her. But I scaled that back, though she says her ability to cope is day-by-day. That’s something I wanted to approach from a coping point-of-view, and it sets up the fact that she could break. When Philomena was outlined as a ‘bitter’ and ‘angry’ character, it sort of felt that she was already broken. I revised that to someone coping through a silent struggle. It’s there, but Philomena has learned to keep her torment and fight under control. This forced me to focus on Philomena’s love interest and Delia’s father, Paul Benson. He became one of my favorite characters in the book. The changes allow Sarinda’s plans to have a greater emotional impact when these characters are affected by her, along with Delia’s drive to right the wrongs done to her mother and grandmother when she pairs with Horatio.

The three women originally hailed from New Orleans. In the original story (as a comic book), the timeline of events was modern, stretching back to 1945 with the grandmother (Theresa) at a young age. In the screenplay, it’s never specified where Noire was from. But ‘The City’ is where everyone wanted to come to make it big. When the main story’s time period changed to take place in 1957, and stretched back to 1917, I realized I’d need to do a good deal of research to get the feel of New Orleans right for that time. A Company of Moors had worn me out when it came to research, and I was fast approaching the date to start writing. I made a few peeks into black life in New Orleans around that time, and I took some notes. But I became a little anxious. I looked at these three women again, and in the original comic book story, they were aware of their power. But I considered that if the grandmother (Theresa Amat, who at the time was named Delia – with Delia being named LaRue) was conscious of her power, there’s no way Sarinda Fallows would ever be able to pull off her devious con. Originally, the fight between the woman that cons the three generation of women was based off of the legend of Dr. Buzzard and the sheriff. But that didn’t fit right within this context, though it felt right at home when it came to the Fable Brothers against Sheriff Curly Burneside. I kept the story of ‘the veil’, but I made Theresa a bit of a skeptic about it, excepting the story because her sweetheart (scholar and traveler, Joseph Pepper IV) presented it to her in a romantic fashion. But I turned their mystical power into a thriving black culture, and that’s when I figured I needed a place where this culture resided. Water Bug Hollow was slated for another project, but I decided to place it within The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, backstory and all. I made a few changes, one of which turned Water Bug Hollow from a Mos Eisley type environment. But I kept its backstory. In editing, I changed Curtis ‘The Water Bug” Hollow’s story slightly, and doing so made the character gain a great deal of intelligence, and he carries on the ‘trickster’ theme presented in the book (a theme that I like to play with for all my writings). The introduction of Water Bug Hollow also gave Sarinda Fallows’ character motive to come in and disrupt the culture, and put in doubt Water Bug Hollow’s history of how it gained its independence. This also gave me two slave rebellions to put into one story. Two for the price of one!!!! YEAH!!!!

I did, for all of a split second, play with the idea that Water Bug Hollow’s slave rebellion, and the slave rebellion of The Son Dial Tone, would be one and the same. But for many reasons, that wouldn’t have made sense. For starters, the rebellions are in two different time periods. And how the rebellions start is a function of the era they’re in, the politics of the time. The Son Dial Tone’s rebellion is in Colonial America, around the 1720s. Water Bug Hollow’s rebellion occurs between July and August of 1863. And I liked how two eras of slavery showcased the difference of the slave, the slave mentality, and the slave masters and the plantation politics.

I changed Theresa’s first name from Delia to line up properly with the mythos and her character within The Son Dial Tone. So, after using the name Delia for two chapters…grrrrrr…I felt compelled to change it. But I liked the name Delia so much I gave it to Theresa’s granddaughter, hyphenating the name she already had. Delia-LaRue. The second of the three women, Philomena Amat – there was never any doubting her name once it was chosen. It means ‘love’. And considering what she goes through, there’s a lot there in its symbolism.

Their surname was originally Laveau, after the Creole priestess Marie Laveau. But I thought that was a little too obvious. I sifted through Creole and French names and found Amat, which looked like an anagram of the Goddess Maat. I liked that, but, with this name too, I thought it was too obvious, too close to Maat. But after some time I settled on it, and it fit.

Pete Peters, Horatio’s father, didn’t much change (except in name). Things around him changed. A city with no name became New York City – Harlem, specifically. The villain that orchestrated his murder went from male to female. The wife of a band member became his wife, and Horatio’s mother. But what remained that was key were his band and his murder. And it was his murder that reshaped the timeline of events and took The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn from modern times to 1957, with Pete Peter’s murder having occurred in 1933.

Pete Peters’ murder, in the book The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, is based on the mythology of Hiram Abiff and the building of Solomon’s temple. There’s a plot to gain Pete Peters’ secrets, musical secrets within the book. Pete’s fifteen fellowcrafts that plot against him are not builders but musicians, his band members. All but three recant. Three ruffians, these men are, and it is they who then carry out the impious deed. Pete Peters’ age is 33. He dies in ’33, a significant number within the mythology and the building of Solomon’s temple. Where the bullets strike Pete Peters is significant to the mythology. His murderers, the three ruffians, find him at the hour of midnight. His band is called The MidKnights. In the original screenplay, his band members Leon and Virginia were a married couple. This hinted at the zodiacal aspects of the mythology. Leon is Leo. Virginia is Virgo. Both signs are significant within Egyptian mythology concerning Her-Em-Akhet (the sphinx) and the witnessing of an event. Leon witnesses Pete Peters’ murder. Virginia, changed to be Pete Peters’ wife and Horatio’s mother in the book, discovers the scene. We see [the character] Joseph Concheroot, in dreams, represented as a scorpion, making him Scorpio. I plotted all of Pete Peters’ band members as signs of the zodiac, down to their specific instruments, but I didn’t have time to showcase each band member when it was a grand twelve-member jazz band. Pete Peters is the thirteenth, being a representation of the sun. He’s also the Opener, the Lead, The High Father. There’s more, much more to say on the deeper mythology encrypted in the book.

This really rocked the characterization of Jackson Henrik Fable. Again, like all the other characters I’ve spoken about, his name was changed from the original screenplay. His name is based off of two black scholars. John Henrik Clarke (and there was a time when he was John Fable) and John G. Jackson. His original character was an extremely militant black man with long dreadlocks. He did not like ‘whitey’ at all. But he was a brilliant musician, and he understood the magical harmonics of the missing keys of music. When the story was placed in 1957, I didn’t think a personality like that could exist believably in that time period. I mean, he could’ve been some kind of shaman with the dreadlocks, and have some profound higher knowledge, but that seemed a little cartoonish. I wanted the story grounded in a respectful reality. As it was, I was going to be engaging topics that African-Americans don’t feel comfortable with, and on top of that, I was bringing in the mystical and spiritual elements of African-American culture that extend back to Africa. However, when it came to this character, well…let’s just say there are also some other politics concerning him that I’ll speak on at a later date (sorry). So, I completely rewired him. And I thought about my grandfather and some other older black figures, and Jackson Henrik Fable came to life.

In The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn screenplay, there was going to be a young teenager that was striving to be a poet. I held onto him until late December 2010. Searching for a name for this character, I came upon the name ‘Gaston’, and for some reason I paired it with the surname Fable. I don’t remember if I was planning to have Gaston be Jackson’s son or not (something tells me that I was), but I put together the name Gaston Fable. And somewhere along the line I came up with The Fable Brothers. That just sounded badass. I then looked to one of my great uncles—brother to the grandfather that helped shape Jackson Fable—and I had another personality to shape. Gaston and Jackson. The Fable Brothers. These two characters gave the story a rich sense of reality. I then asked, “Where could these guys live?” And that’s when I came up with, “At the crossroads.” Knowing the grand mythology of the crossroads and how it factored into many African-American mythos and hoodoo, I thought it was perfect. I also decided to make fun of those people that actually believe in the whole “Selling your soul to the devil” at the crossroads. There’s a playful running gag between Jackson and Gaston when they make fun of the encoded, African-American mythologies and what’s believed from them instead of breaking down the mythology to what they’re actually saying. The jibes might jump out, maybe even bordering on being preachy, but they flow with the dialogue. Horatio, late in the book, even blatantly says, “Ain’t no devil at the crossroads.”

And, of course, every grand story needs grand villains. Sarinda Fallows is indeed that grand villain. She’s a Southern belle, and wrapped up in her charm is a deathly insidious deviancy. She has a desire to resurrect her husband and father’s ideals for commerce, business, and the control over people’s lives. But she also has her mother’s blood in her, and therefore she desires to control objects, trinkets, and baubles attached to grand tales, legends, and lore. Sarinda’s character was nowhere to be found in the screenplay of The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn. Her character was part of The Son Dial Tone exclusively as ‘Sarah Pantomime’. Even here she was second fiddle to the male slave master antagonist and not the main villain. When the two stories were combined, and after dealing so much with male antagonists, Sarinda came to the forefront. The main villain for The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn screenplay served as Sarinda Fallow’s husband in the days of the plantation, a suave businessman. The more brutal and violent aspects of the original male antagonist went to Sarinda’s father. Each of these characters is a commentary on the evolution of racism and the system of American slavery.

When I first started putting Sarinda Fallows together as a character, the one thing I knew about her was that she wasn’t going to be an outright villain in personality. I like sly villains. I like the personality of the trickster as a villain just as much as I like the personality for the heroes. This sets up intrigue. It worked well with A Company of Moors. Al-Rinak’s three components of inspiration are made up of only one bruiser, but even this ‘bruiser’ character is a plotter, even with his muscle. That personality is the 1986 animated character Megatron. If you re-read al-Rinak’s description, it should make sense now why he has a ‘gray metallic’ hint to his dark hue, or his voice sounding like five voices converging as one while speaking through an ice tunnel, or the way he wears his turban. Yep. That’s the Decepticon leader in the human flesh. Ameer Las El-Behar is his Optimus Prime, though Behar’s inspiration came from other sources. Al-Rinak’s inspiration was also pulled from two other animated sources, though originally these two characters were literary first. General Woundwort of Watership Down is the second pull of inspiration that formed Statesman al-Rinak Ozan. The last is Jenner, more so of the animated Secret of NIMH than the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH of which the movie is adapted from. In the book, Jenner is only mentioned in passing and believed to be dead. But what I most enjoy about the villains in A Company of Moors is that they are all politics. I like the idea, as in Mafia history and films/television, where guys at each other’s throats can often converse as friends, thinking behind their eyes about how they’re going to kill the very person they’re partying with or shaking hands with. The deceit builds tension. Nasir in the room with the heads of The Four Winds and he knowing that they’ve killed his father and plan to kill him; and the heads of The Four Winds (named after demons) believing that Nasir is ignorant of the deed they’ve carried out and their plans for him. Or Al-Jeheuty having friendly conversations with al-Rinak, the two of them sharing laughter and a drink while they plot in their heads on how they’ll kill the other. It’s good ol’ fashion fun. But, al-Rinak, and all the colorful villains of A Company of Moors did have one thing in common. They were all males, and they all flaunted their masculine egos with chests out and snarls, guns, swords, and balls drawn. Okay, maybe not that last one…but you get my point. There was an idea in A Company of Moors to have a female villain, but she was cut and her time was given to al-Rinak’s mistress Melusina. This unscripted character’s villainy also, again, played second fiddle. But beside her nasty attitude, she was someone that made a choice that pitted her against our protagonists. She wanted to gain, at all cost.

Enter Sarinda Fallows. A woman. The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn was special in a way because the middle act (the longest of the acts) focuses on female characters. Each is distinct, though Theresa and Sarinda have traits in common. I knew Sarinda’s motives, and I knew her approach on acquiring what she desired. But my biggest concern was her approach by way of her personality. What was going to be her charm? I imagined her like a schoolgirl with a crush, when it came to the object she desired, an ornamented veil. An heirloom said to have been worn by a black woman residing in the United States long, long ago. To Sarinda, it’s the perfect present that her devilish tricks could acquire for her. She was going to be like a giddy teenage girl in her pursuit of it, secret as her intentions are. That’s what’s underneath the surface. She’s too sophisticated to be obvious, because Sarinda is also a socialite. She’s a star without the fame. When she’s not out destroying lives, she’s celebrating in the midst of her own. But there are moments of the evil inside her. What she’s capable of. In the scheme of keeping Sarinda charming, I wanted her charm to get more of the ‘screen time.’ I wanted the reader jarred in two ways when Sarinda committed or ordered an atrocious act. One, I wanted the act to be heinous. Two, I wanted to remind the reader who Sarinda really was. The second part was a bit of a challenge. Sarinda couldn’t be so charming that the reader forgets what her plans are, or that when she makes a devious move it looks out of character. Those moments had to be like a mask dropping and revealing the true face. This is Sarinda all along. And the reader had to react (after taking a gasp) by going, “Oh, yes. She got me too. Again, no less. Damn.”

For this Southern belle, I was studying every Southern character from Scarlett O’Hara to Blanche Devereaux, as well as real-life Southern women I’d come across.  What anointed Sarinda with soul was actually the character of a black woman. Claire Huxtable, as played by Phylicia Rashād, on The Cosby Show. My fiancée and I were watching reruns one night and I noticed Claire always got her way, whether through charm or intelligence. She got what she wanted. Phylicia Rashād also had the greatest gestures that could melt any man’s heart. Worked on me. I mean, “I saw you cryin’, but I was just about to bust wide open.” But I borrowed her facial gestures for both Sarinda and Theresa Amat. Overall, for Sarinda Fallows, I figured if Claire’s charm, sophistication, and intelligence were made for complete evil purposes, then we have the soul of our character. And I did. Her physical look comes from old 50s pinup models, heavy sprinkles of Marylyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. Throw in Christina Hendricks too, cuz hey, Like Sarinda Fallows, that’s a voluptuous red head. Sarinda’s walk, step, and manner all came together from the moment she’s introduced into the story. She’s first spoken about in the early chapters, and there’s an air of mystery surrounding her. Kind of Kaiser Soze. She’s a beautiful myth whispered about on the tip of men’s lips and internal desires. And she could be dangerous, with tricks at her command. But we don’t get to see her until the second act, which takes place in 1917. And her charm is on full display, pulling off her con by feigning sympathy and character and coming with a warning to the residents of Water Bug Hollow. She feigns naïveté while behind it she’s plotting moves and manipulating the people around her. We pass to 1933 and finally leave Sarinda in 1937. With the flip of the page we’re back to 1957. We wonder what she’s been doing for the last twenty years. Whose lives has she destroyed since we’ve last seen her? Was her quest successful? What are her desires now? What is her insurance for the future should someone defeat her? And what will Horatio Peters do when he finally comes face to face with this temptress in this lifetime? Will he fall under her spell, or rid the world of her for good?

One of Sarinda’s tricks is that she has henchmen. Good villains often do. Moriarty. Red John. Curly Burneside is Sarinda’s henchman. He is her right hand. I didn’t want him to just be a typical lackey. He’s caught up in Sarinda’s plans. He has his own, knowing what part of Sarinda’s grand ritual consists of, and he can’t wait. He’s a sonava bitch, a rough man that has been on every aspect of the law. He’s been a lawyer, and he’s been a sheriff. He’s been a brutal overseer in the days of the plantation. He has his own charm. And though his story finishes late in chapter two, because we arc back to 1917 and up, we get to see his character evolve from gentleman and consultant to a brutal sheriff of a town, which revert him back to his plantation days. Sarinda and Curly don’t have past lives. Until someone puts them down, they have long lives.

And now, I find myself back in the stage of fleshing out characters before production begins on this latest project. And it has been just as fun. Most often you don’t get to really start understanding what works and what does not until you start the writing process. But you shape as much as you can before you dive in, and then you move forward. As you write, you see what’s working, what traits should be dropped or at least be subtle. You see how the story affects your character to indulge more or less in a personality quirk. With time, you get there. And then you have a character. Characters with character.

b write black

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The ∞ Cycles

We’re at the beginning of my writing loop. A new project is on the horizon, and I’m excited. This is how a continuous loop breaks down within my writing schedule. Let’s start the breakdown at the end of a project. It’s usually between the end of July to mid-September. That’s the release of a project. Then I get a rest period from writing that usually extends from October to December, with a good deal of promotion from radio to print about the latest project.

For The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, promotion will be continuing long into this new year, and will run parallel with the promotion of the second epic poem, 2 Enlighten the G.O.D.Z. But it’s around mid-January where I begin to put together notes for the next project. Often times, if inspiration hits, this process might be around the end of December. When I do write notes toward the end of December, it’s just a few. And often times, inspiration hits even while I’m ‘resting’. But things are just jotted down as notes. I don’t take a closer look at what I’m planning and plotting until that mid-January mark. This year, it was at the end of January.

I’ve already spoken about how my fourth and final epic poem will be intertwined with this new narrative; much like The Son Dial Tone was with The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn. I’ll speak about that process soon. I’ve been going through notes that date all the way back to ’99 and 2000 when the concept was first conceived. And of course, there are the years where the concept had its changes, character and plot rearrangement, structure.

We’re in March now, and the notes for the first act have been created. They’ve been sitting around, finished since early February, the eighth or so. The notes for the first act are a full eighteen printed pages. At the moment, I don’t know how that would translate into a written page count. I also scripted dialogue too, which stretches the notes. I started taking notes for notes of the second and third acts, but what I’ve jotted down has just been plot points that I want to hit, that I need to hit for these parts of the narrative. The notes for the second and third act are handwritten and in a notebook. The second act is two pages long, and the third is half a page long but not finished. I could just leave the notes as is. The second act isn’t in the proper order of events. Some things I have noted might happen parallel with one another. Some before, some after other events. I know where the second act begins and how it ends. It’s the arc that needs fine tuning. The third act will remain short, but segue into a short fourth act that I haven’t outlined, but I know the events of.

So, now I’ve entered a second rest period, although there is more to script (outline). I’m mostly sitting back and looking over my notes for the first act. The first major dive into writing will come at the end of April, near my birthday. From there: writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, and writing. A process that will last about a year. The writing period can begin anywhere between end of March to end of April. I believe, for The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, I started writing toward the end of March and finished mid-May of the following year. When I get into the last hundred pages or so of writing, I begin handing out the proper pages to editors for editing. It happens parallel to writing so that the overall process of editing can be cut down in time between finish of book and release.

After the second round of edits (and application of edits), the copyright gets processed and then we get the first printer’s proof, and the tedious task of proofreading goes into its first of a possible three stages.

And then, it’s yours to enjoy.

Then I can rest, with a good deal of promotion from radio to print about the latest project.
And that’s the process of the continuous loop of writing.

Rest, take a breath. Start scripting. Start writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, and writing. Editing (getting closer to finishing the project). Copyright. Printer’s proof. Proofreading. Release. Rest, take a breath.

And then, of course, there will be some new elements in the mix of this new project.

b write black.