Matt the Firsty here! Emily and I didn’t have any good ideas to blog this morning, so I thought I would make a little progress report on my sinister plans for my little digital alter ego. Not that my plans are sinister in the traditional sense of evil or foreboding, although I already know there are moments that Emily won’t enjoy at all, and I would apologize to her if I could. Some etymological trivia for you, however. In Latin roots, ‘dextro’ is the word for ‘right handed’. The word ‘dexterity’, referring to adeptness and skill, comes from the greater control most people have with their right hands. I fully intend to put Emily through a long term plot arc, something that I can hopefully then rewrite into a novel, but between the chaos of my schedule and the disjointed nature of my attention span, I fear I won’t be very dextrous as I execute my plans. Since the opposite of dextro is sinistro, it actually does make sense to refer to my plans as sinister…
I picked the title of this post for two reasons. Firstly, for Emily, I am the ‘man behind the curtain’, the unseen presence pulling puppeteer strings. Secondly, it’s a quote from the Wizard of Oz, a classic movie that is one of my favorites.
Quick aside: To me, the Wizard of Oz is one of those movies that everyone should know, a piece of American cultural identity. As such, I often allude to it in normal conversation, because I expect it to be a common reference point. Semi-recently I ran drinks out to a table of six: Mother and father, preteen brother and sister, one pair of grandparents. They were so engrossed in their conversation I couldn’t simply hand the drinks out, so I attempted to discretely place each person’s drink near them. Sadly, the mom talked with her hands, gesturing enough I could only lurk behind her, hoping for either her words to pause so I could speak up or her movements to pause so I could place her drink. Neither happened until I had stood behind her long enough for the moment to become awkward. “Don’t worry, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” I joked, since I’m not a fan of awkward pauses and rush to fill them.
“What did you say?” asked the mom, obviously confused.
“Sorry,” I replied, a little surprised the line wasn’t recognized, “Just a line from an old movie.” A set-up for someone at the table to point out that the Wizard of Oz is not just ‘some old movie’ but a classic, a universal telling of the heroic journey. Or at least a childhood favorite. An audience with both a male and female for each of three generations and none of them recognized the Wizard of Freakin’ Oz? My mind was totally blown, and I’ve needed to vent about this for a while…
Anyway, I should try to rein myself back on topic. A few months ago, I was taking stock of both my life and Emily’s life, trying to figure out what the arrivals of our respective babies would mean for blogging. As I finished taking stock, I realized I want to wade deeper into the fiction end of the pool. My tentative plan is to try to write a novel from within the blog. Beat out an overarching plot line (freely stealing advice from Blake Snyder and Larry Brooks). The nature of my writing, heck, the nature of my life, is to try to pants it, but my ADD-raddled attention span requires an outline of scenes and incidents if I want to avoid either trailing off unfinished or meandering away from compelling narrative pacing. Once I have list of ‘incidents and accidents, hints and allegations’ to string into a story, I can shape individual scenes into one or two part blog entries. Once I’m done, I can string them all together and edit back into a single manuscript. A brilliant idea if it works, right?
My genre of choice to write is an urban fantasy. Think the Dresden files, Suzanne Johnson’s Sentinels of New Orleans series, Seanen McGuire’s Toby Daye series, Supernatural, etc. I thought about a few other genres; my reading tastes range far and wide so I know the tropes and conventions of almost any genre, and I’m confident by now that I can find sets and costumes for anything somewhere in Second Life. I also strongly considered trying a more mundane ‘cozy’ mystery, maybe something like Stephanie Bond’s Body Mover series or Janet Evanovitch’s Stephanie Plum series. It’s another genre I like, and possibly a better fit for what I’ve written so far, over two hundred posts in nearly two years with very little indication that the supernatural has any role in Emily’s world. Still, as I’ve confessed elsewhere, I initially envisioned Emily as an urban fantasy character. Moreover, as a reader, as a wannabe writer, and as an RPG-gamer I’ve had ideas and fancies about the nature of magic simmering in the back of my head for not just years but decades. It seems like a waste not to use at least some of them. Ultimately, though, it comes down to fact I want to write the book I would want to read, and so far, I want to read an urban fantasy.
Before I can start my experiment in mad literary science (“Yes, Igor, what if we somehow force a blog to bear the love child of an unwritten novel to fruition?”) there are two things I need to do, one onstage and one backstage if I may briefly mix metaphors. Backstage- behind the curtain, where you should pay no attention- I need to have at my outline lined up. I had one in progress, but it was growing too front heavy and I’ve been alternating between trying to massage it and trying to build a better outline from different plot structures. Two important early scenes- a prologue that introduces the antagonist to the story, and a scene where Emily’s supernatural birthright first manifests, have already defined themselves in my imagination. Probably a reflection of my own recent ascent into parenthood, but all the themes that I’m considering for the story revolve around Emily’s attempt to balance her responsibilities to herself, to the other adults in her life, and to Piper.
The onstage stuff is the fun part of getting ready for my experiment. I’m tweaking Emily’s employment a bit, from full time server to part time server and part time ‘gallery girl’ for the Thatchtower Gallery. Thatchtower is actually a cross between a gallery and an auction house, dealing with high end rarities and collectibles, many of which touch upon the supernatural world. The new job has a couple of roles in the story I want to tell. It gives Emily access to daycare, because I don’t always have someplace to park Piper and some scenes require her absence. It provides a source of information about the supernatural, because Emily doesn’t (yet) know what she needs to know about the arcane world. It provides an entrance vector to put more men into Emily’s life. It also gives me a chance to honor Caoimhe Lionheart, a truly wonderful Second Life blogger, who cheerfully volunteered to watch Piper when she commented on my ‘Sober Lullabies’ post. Given the most famous Lionheart of history was Richard the Lionhearted, 12th century English King, it is hardly surprising that Ms. Cao Richards is my loose reinterpretation of ‘Lil Cao for my fiction: An elegant lady, gifted with compassion, wisdom, and style, who will watching (and watching out for) Emily and Piper in their dealings with Thatchtower Gallery. (And yes, sometimes babysitting Piper for an afternoon or evening.) Even if her job title is ‘administrative assistant’, Ms. Richards is effectively the executive running Thatchtower, and will definitely be present in Emily’s story.
I’m also trying to insert a small stable of potential romantic interests into Emily’s life. In my personal reading, I strongly prefer fiction with a strong romantic subplot. I generally don’t appreciate books where the romance is the primary plot, but I have enough of a romantic streak that one of the signs of a happy ending is the presence and strengthening of a love relationship. So obviously, I want my urban fantasy blog-novel’s B plot to deal with Emily’s love life. I’ve got two options to choose between, both well illustrated in my reading list. Option one is to pick Emily’s love interest, and then help love conquer all. Option two, equally popular, is to throw multiple intriguing candidates at my heroine. I’m having trouble deciding between options, so I want to make sure I have enough candidates available so that option two is still a viable option. Jeremy is one candidate. I expect Thatchtower to provide a couple more: Carlton Thatcher, the wealthy, cultured, secretive owner of the gallery and Eddie Stone, his dangerous and intensely physical head of security. I have also imagined a few interesting men connected to the supernatural world, individuals who also relate to the A plot.
So in short, I have big ideas for Emily, but I’m still having some trouble figuring out the execution. In that sense, little has changed. Still, ideas are starting to gel, so continue to keep your eyes on this space…