Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Getting Started

This is somewhat impulsive, but it’s right to start this blog off with something that speaks powerfully.

Two things first: I’m halfway through LOST. I’m watching it on Netflix just a few years late because that’s just how I am; I swim against the tide. Second thing, I’m reading Christopher Booker’s brilliant work on story entitled, “The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories.” Just so we’re clear, those two things are affecting me deeply as I grapple internally with my own novel concept.

I say it’s a concept because it’s not yet a coherent story. For this, I’m very glad. Even though I’ve already produced close to 120,000 words on it, if I didn’t work hard to smith them thoroughly into something of greater value than they now represent, I would be cheating the gift I possess for writing. That’s something I think we all can agree is intolerable.

On to the meat of this first post. I’ve been wrestling with my novel, my first novel and therefore probably my magnum opus (at least at this point), for what feels like forever. It first began to hit the page as something substantive a couple of years ago. It started out fairly, but I don’t want to publish something simply fair. I want to publish something that adds to our culture and our society in a net positive; a gross positive. So much that has been artistically wrought in all kids of media since the mid 20th century has not benefitted us as the human race, and I aim to be a part of the solution as opposed to the opposite, if I at all can. I therefore find it very interesting that I’m finding such inspiration in a television show. And I don’t know how LOST ends—so don’t tell me—but so far, I find it to be a masterpiece of storytelling.

One of the main threads or plotlines in it is especially touching to me. Desmond David Hume (named for a famous philosopher, David Hume) plays the part of Odysseus to his girlfriend Penelope, whose namesake in the Homerian epic had to endure the increasingly antagonistic wooings of 108 suitors in her hero’s absence. The clock in the Hatch, where Desmond had to push the button every 108 minutes, clued me in on all of this. I love stories that have codes to crack. And I love real manly romance—which seems to have died alongside true masculinity, at least here in the west.

All this to say that I’m becoming inspired to begin to organize my story. LOST is serving as the mindbending inspiration, and Christopher Booker’s primer on the art of the story is the toolbox.

The last episode of LOST I watched was called The Constant, in season 4. It has within it something that I knew was not original, but something I came up with independently nevertheless: it’s the idea of becoming unpinned from one’s proper place in time. I plan on using it in a much different way in my novel, but it remains one of the central leitmotifs, if you will. Thanks to the German genius Richard Wagner for inventing that, by the way. The leitmotif is a recurring element of a story or song that represents part of a character or even part of the story that needs simple representation as the larger narrative unfolds.

I’ll blog more in the coming weeks about where I’m going with all of this, so stay tuned. Now that I’ve committed to blogging about my novel, it has all at once become more real, less daunting, and possible. I’m glad we’re on this journey, whatever it might be, together. Thanks for following.


  1. Can you explain what a leitmotif is for me? I'm not following. Perhaps an example? Remember no classics.

  2. Bri, a leitmotif is, let's say, a recognizable melody in a larger work that repeats occasionally. In Wagner's operas, this was manifest as, let's say, a jingle. Every time that jingle showed up, it would signify one of the characters from the libretto (a libretto is the story of the opera; kind of like a movie script), and call to the mind of the audience all that that character was made of.

    That means that the leitmotif, maybe five notes, could speak to the audience about a character's flaws, passions, background, and struggles. In my case, one of the leitmotifs is a clock. It signifies K, my main protagonist, and all that his character means.