One Night in Bangkok Makes a Hard Author Crumble

Things are looking up after a really long slog lately. I got some excellent feedback on the fiction I wrote- not just “hey, this is interesting,” but ideas for moving the story forward when I really wasn’t sure what I wanted out of it. I also want to work on character development, making them amalgams of people I’ve known in my past, but no one character enveloping one person. For instance, Pri-Diddy is Indian and Auna is African-American and James’ family is originally from England, so how to take one person and embody all of that rather than having single characters based on each one. Now, James, Pri-Diddy, and Auna are not characters in my novel as of yet, but like I said, a good example of my thought process. And, of course, I have to fit in there somewhere.

No matter what any novelist tells you, fiction is real life disguised, no matter how outrageous the plot. Perhaps the author is trying to reconcile his/her childhood. Perhaps the author is trying to make peace with haunted dreams. Perhaps fiction is the dream, a way to subsconsciously enter a sacred space so that the absurd works out the tangible. There are things about my own past in which I am just not willing to let go in first person… writing around them so that hopefully only I can read between the lines… or perhaps to put “myself” in situations that I’d like to experience, but haven’t.

I am generally envious of authors who get book advances, but not because I need the money for basic sustenance. For now, I’m writing about the intelligence community, and all the letters are right down the road. But say I was writing about India. A book advance is a plane ticket, rather than having to Google everything instead of live it.

But even writing about the intelligence community is a world of looking at declassified ops and other novels in the same genre, because it is unlikely that someone is going to walk up to me and say, “hey, I work for the NSA and I hear you’re working on a book. Why don’t I help you out?” It’s also unlikely that I’d run into Valerie Plame at a party, but it would be awesome if I did, because she’s helped out a lot of fiction writers, including acting as a television consultant.

I do have friends at State, and people who work at State are often put on task forces with The Agency, but I only know that because of, again, declassified ops and novels in that genre. If my friends were on those task forces, they obviously couldn’t tell me about it.

I feel like I’m writing blind, and that’s ok. Writing a novel, for the most part, is less about facts and more about releasing the demons you don’t want to ascribe to yourself, anyway. Your own flaws and failures come out in character backstory. The trick is to write it in such a way that no one knows which characters have the aspects of you or your alter ego.

It’s such a process, learning to write fiction. With blogging, I don’t have to know plot points and character development, because I’m living them. Fiction is a chessboard, and I’ve never been even a good chess player, much less a great one. But chess, like fiction, is something I enjoy, even if I have to keep the computer setting on stupid.

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