Where to Start?

On the heels of last week’s Wednesday Wanderings, I came down with a terrific cold.

Several Steps

This cold really was “terrific,” in all senses of the word.  It came on so suddenly that, in the archaic sense of the word, it elicited a degree of terror.  It was – to borrow just a few synonyms from the more formal definition – prodigious, formidable, and intense.  And, finally, in the most informal sense of the word, the cold was terrific – that is “extremely good” – in that it ebbed almost as quickly as it had initially occurred, making possible my keeping my Sunday engagements, both of which I would have been sorry to cancel.

As I write this, the infirmity lingers, although to a much lesser degree, making me grow tired rather faster than I would like, muddling my thought processes, and, in general, impeding creativity – including coming up with a way to start a story I’m determined to work on this week.

On Monday, I was sitting staring at my computer screen, wishing that I could focus.  In the end, realizing that I was wasting my time, I decided to go and take care of some routine chores.  As is my custom whenever possible, I turned on an audiobook – in this case a novel I have not read for many years: Wilkie Collin’s seminal detective novel, The Moonstone.

Imagine my astonishment, even my amusement, when, within a very few sentences, Gabriel Betteredge, who narrates that section, began to talk about the difficulty of knowing exactly where to begin a tale.  In Gabriel’s case, he goes back to his own youth, when he first took employment with the family of the woman who – these many decades later – he continues to serve, now in the capacity of steward and butler.

Although Gabriel apologizes repeatedly for including so much about himself – rather than focusing more tightly on the events surrounding the disappearance of the titular moonstone (a yellow diamond, by the by, for those of you who haven’t read the novel, not the blue-white semi-precious stone with which most of us are familiar) – his ramblings do an excellent job of sketching several of the primary characters, the setting, and the household dynamic.  As these prove key to understanding the mystery that will unfold, perhaps Gabriel isn’t wasting either his or the reader’s time as much as he thinks.

However, although Gabriel’s ramblings lay the foundation for the story that will follow, Collins did not depend upon them to supply the novel’s narrative hook.  That is given in a short earlier section – one which sets up the history of the diamond and how the cursed gem came into this quiet corner of England.

Side note: As I mentioned last Friday, Josh Gentry’s SnackReads/SnackWrites site has just reprinted my piece on narrative hooks, so I won’t bother to go into my feelings about that particular literary device except to say that I firmly approve of it.

So, what should I do?  Perhaps I should go and verbally sketch some of the characters who are flitting so vividly through my imagination, including the scene that I envisioned?  Perhaps I should write a little history of the immediate setting?  Perhaps I should write a list of some of the events I think may happen?  Perhaps I should consolidate some of the research I have been doing these several months?

Perhaps I should follow Gabriel Betteredge’s example and go consult a copy of Robinson Crusoe.  Well…  Maybe not that.  Defoe’s novel may provide unfailing guidance for Gabriel, but I’m not sure it would prove anything but an appealing distraction for me.

But certainly I could try any of the other ideas.  None of the material may make its way into the final work, but certainly it would be better than staring in frustration into the white light of my computer screen.

Do you have any particular way you get started on a new project?  I don’t mean only writing – I mean anything that involves taking the first step on the path that will lead from inspiration to reality.

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