Many artists will tell you not to sit by and wait for the Muse. You have to be dedicated to your work and keep plugging away at it whether you feel inspired or not. If you haven’t figured this out already, I’m a big believer in this. Working toward your goals every day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes will move you closer. True story.
But what about when the Muse does land on your shoulder and starts whispering furiously in your ear?
Ah, when that happens, it’s a miracle and you better work fast. Muses are like hummingbirds and they flitter away as quickly as they came. Worse, they often get you started on a project and leave you to carry it out.
I was driving to work last week and thinking about my Sacred Knight story. The main character, Steigan (pronounced with a long e to be Ste’gan) is my passion. He’s been my favorite character for 15 years now.
Without giving any spoilers, let me give you some background about Steigan. As any writer will tell you, the characters they feel deepest about are the ones that stem from them. A character can feed a writer like the writer feeds a character. They flow into each other like yin and yang. On days when I feel like I can’t make another step through life, when it’s all too overwhelming and I want to quit, I ask myself, “What would Steigan do?” That simple thought wraps around me like his armor and suddenly I have the strength I need. He always responds with, “Relax. I’m handling the situation.” On the other hand, as I’ve been writing his story, there have been times when I’ve had to be hard on Steigan (a writer’s job is to throw their characters into a horrible mess to see how they get out — a strange form of tough love, but writers understand what I mean) and I’ve had Steigan stop to ask me, “How am I going to get out of this? It’s impossible.” I reply, “Relax. I’m handling the situation.”
Having created Steigan’s world entirely from scratch is hard business. Worse, Steigan filters this story through his point of view. I’ve tried writing from other characters’ perspectives, but it’s never the same. Steigan has the emotional investment. It’s his story and I’m basically retelling it. But lately Steigan and I have fought over certain aspects. For example, I know that they have to have ceremonies and holidays and rituals. Steigan only lets me see those that mean something to him. I know there’s got to be more. He tells me, “Not to me. For me, it’s just another day of doing my duty.”
I admit I’m not a big holiday person myself. It’s just another day. To me, every day is special and meant to be enjoyed. I believe that Steigan also holds this belief. Didn’t I say that we were quite similar? I really wanted to know more though.
So here I was driving to work and thinking about the man Steigan was named after: Saint Steigan – a man who fostered his religion, then betrayed it. I focused on a period of time of about 30 years in St. Steigan’s life where he was supporting a wife and child who were not his own. I wanted to know what holidays and events were special to him during this period. I know what he was doing during this time, but I didn’t know much about his personal life. Suddenly I was struck with the brilliant realization that his child would have grown up and had children of her own during these 30 years (shocking thought, huh? Sometimes I’m really swift.)
Steigan stepped in and said, “Yes, her name was Annae and she wrote a book about St. Steigan.”
Yes! What would it be like to grow up thinking the man you called Papa was not really your father, then to learn that he was actually one of the most notorious people in the history of your world? I knew then that Aeribela, a princess from the town of Dubinshire, would have loved this book. So I asked what the book would be about and that’s when the Muse sat on my shoulder and started whispering about Annae and her life.
I have had to be as close to St. Steigan as I am Steigan because Steigan’s whole quest is to pick up where St. Steigan failed. I know the events influencing his life, what caused the deep grief he felt from events caused by his own actions slipping through his fingers like smoke. (Remember, I’ve been plugging away at this story for 15 years — longer than my children have been alive — so I know these characters.) I was afraid that St. Steigan would block the way, tell me that his external life during these 30 years were irrelevant to the story.
To my surprise, Annae stepped up to the plate. She told me the story in her book and how it all came to be. On my lunch hour, I started writing. During this last week, I’ve been writing during every free moment. What a strange experience it’s been too. On the one hand, I don’t know Annae very well so her voice was unclear. I also moved through the emotions that St. Steigan experienced as these events happened. It was like a coin where on the one side was St. Steigan’s emotions and on the other was Annae’s. May times when I quit writing, I’d feel fuzzy and raw from this tug-of-war split-brained sensation.
I finished the first draft yesterday. It ended up being longer than I thought it would. When Annae got into the story, she took it over. She gave me insights into holidays and ceremonies that Steigan never let me in on. To her, these were memoriable times. She has definitely expanded on this story more than I could’ve gotten through Steigan.
If that weren’t enough, I now have a side-story that I can release soon. Yes. You will get to see this later in April or May. There’s still much work to be done, a couple drafts of editting as well as having my writing friends look at it for things I don’t see. When it’s finished, you’ll have a great story that will whet your appetite for more. And there will be more.
I’ve been working on a novelization of the graphic novel too. I hope to have the novelization of the first draft done by the end of the year, though with this story popping in unannounced, it may get slightly pushed into 2011. I’m also working very hard on the next two chapters of the graphic novel. Never doubt how much time and energy goes into this story. But it’s my passion and I can’t wait to share it with the world.
I will keep plugging away at this story even thought the Muse has left my shoulder leaving me to carry on by myself. But while the Muse was here, I got a lot of material to work with and I’m thankful for the gift. It made this a very special week. I couldn’t ask for more.