I’ve been battling insomnia this week. It seems my brain and my body have been operating on different schedules. By the time my body is ready to call it a night, my brain starts to resemble one of those lotto machines with the ping-pong balls shooting here and there and to and fro and everywhere in between.
On nights such as these, I usually find myself doing one of two things: (1) playing Text Twist or conducting some other equally inane, hopefully mind-numbing perusal of the interwebs, or (2) reading a book if I’m feeling productive.
However, in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, I found myself propelled out of bed by a new image for a story I’ve tried to write two times in the past seven months. Ironically, one character tenderly watching another character sleep was the catalytic image that led to me eagerly tapping out two-thirds of a new beat sheet for Mute a mere four hours before my alarm was set to go off.
While this may seem hardly revelatory to some, for whatever reason it was exactly that for me. It’s really only a slight shift in story, but for me as the writer, it represents a movement toward less inhibited writing. When I first started writing seriously in August of last year, I consistently had the notion that my family and friends would likely read what I was writing. This, I can tell you, is not necessarily a good thing to have in the back of your mind. If you’re constantly worried about making your characters palatable, you’re not going to do them justice.
After having battled this through last year’s NaNoWriMo while writing Mute, I threw caution to the wind by writing a sex scene within the first 10 pages of my next project. Looking back, The Affair of Monsieur Valentine is the most uninhibited thing I’ve ever written for a variety of reasons, and it’s my favorite by far. Come to think of it, one of the themes of M. Valentine is letting go of what’s expected and doing what’s right. I didn’t really intend that, but it makes sense in hindsight. With M. Valentine, I stopped worrying about what people would think when they read it and simply let myself write the story the way it was intended to be written. And that made all the difference.
When I started rewriting Mute as a screenplay, I think I fell back a bit into those patterns, probably because they were written into the novel version of the story. What had the potential to be a moving, Rites of Passage story devolved into a cheesy drama with no heart. I scrapped the whole thing at page 75 and had felt decidedly ambivalent about it until 1 a.m. Tuesday morning. Seeing that previously unplanned moment in my mind reminded me why I’d loved my main character and his story in the first place.
Having finished my prewriting yesterday, I plan to start writing Mute (v. 3) tonight. And this time I’m going to try very hard to let the characters be organic and authentic. To do anything else is to fail them.