Who’s in Charge Here?




and also

Introducing the Spoilerific Spoiler Quarantine Where the Spoilers Go

There are no spoilers in this entry.  More on that in a moment.

As some of you may know, I am a huge fan of Stephen King.   Almost a year ago, I finished reading the Dark Tower series.  If you’re not familiar with the series, it is an impressively vast work, not only in length, but also in the complexity of the story and the depth of the story world.  It is most definitely worth checking out (to quote the sentence that turned me into a Harry Potter fan: the first book is short; if you don’t like it, you won’t have wasted much time).  It’s an interesting piece of speculative fiction, blending elements of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and even if you don’t like any of those, King’s writing is simply breathtaking.

Anyway, I’m about to start the series again (the Tower calls…), and I’ve been thinking a lot about the ending – which, as promised, I am not going to write about on this page.  For my musings on the end of the story, you’ll need to head on over to a new feature of the site:  The Spoilerific Spoiler Quarantine Where the Spoilers Go.  Since I write a lot about stories on this site, and since I HATE HATE HATE having endings spoiled for me, I am going to keep the spoilers isolated on a separate page, bedecked with over-the-top warnings about the impending death of suspense should you read about a story that you have not finished for yourself first.  All that being said, the thought I had about the ending of the Dark Tower has implications in the abstract as well, and you can keep reading this page for my musings on that.

So, to review:

Click link for spoilers.

Continue to read for no spoilers.

I do a lot of thinking about characters in stories.  A few years ago, I had an interesting experience with a character I had written when I was participating in NaNoWriMo.  There came a point when the character began to write himself.  When a character first makes his or her way onto the page, the author is often doing all the work.  The author thinks and speaks for the character.  At that point, the character is more like a puppet of which the author is in complete control.  After a certain point, though, if the author has written the character consistently, there is enough contextual momentum built up that the next line or action of a character simply flows logically from what has already been established about that character.  Once that happens, the amount of work the author has to do to order the character around drops, sometimes to almost nothing.  The clutch has been popped, and the character has become a person.

Ok, so that’s one model of character creation.  There are lots.  Sometimes a character is so fully real and present in the author’s mind that he or she springs onto the page, fully formed, and starts rearranging the furniture, ordering the author and the other characters around, you get the idea.  What I’m getting at is that there often comes a time when the author is not fully in charge anymore.

This is not unique to character creation.  There’s a great line in the movie Inception (that’s two weeks in a row I’ve mentioned that movie.  Maybe I need a totem) when Dom is talking to Ariadne about creativity.  They discuss how when you’re designing a building, there sometimes comes a moment when you almost feel like you’re discovering it.  Dom says that this is no truer than when you’re dreaming, and you create and perceive simultaneously.   I’ll admit that I’ve had very limited experience with that in terms of writing fiction, but I know that something similar happens when I’m blogging: I start an entry with one thing in mind and it ends up going somewhere completely different.  It’s not magic.  Well, actually it might be magic.  But it’s not that unusual.  It happens when we have conversations, or cook, or go for walks.  There’s an initial input of energy, and then something incredible happens.  You turn a corner and are faced with something completely unexpected.

I said that it might be magic, and I meant it.  I don’t know how it works.  I could make cold guesses about emergence, and how various inputs affect each other, and how our brains are basically pattern recognition machines that could make it appear that creativity has a sort of self-sustaining momentum.  But isn’t the other way better?  Doesn’t it feel truer?

I like the version where synergy is something real, and not just a buzz word used in corporate retreat break-out sessions.  That’s the one that makes the most sense of me.  And c’mon, it’s more fun.

Click here for (spoiler-ridden) bonus material. – This is the idea that got me started down the mental path that ended in this blog entry, but it contains spoilers from the end of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.  I repeat.  Spoilers ahead.

As always, thank you for reading.  More to follow.


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