At the risk of sounding like a monomaniac (as if!), I want to report that last night was interesting.
Firstly, on the music-while-you-work strand, I tried “Pelléas et Mélisande”; hopeless. It’s one of my favourite operas, with its limpid, pellucid colours and heartbreaking story, and always moves me deeply, even in the deeply weird and visually stifling production at the ROH a while back. But as music to work to it was useless. I could type, or I could listen, but there was no combining the two, and no drawing inspiration from the one to feed the other. “Pelléas” simply had to take my world over. So I turned it off, and played “The Cunning Little Vixen” instead. I cry buckets at “The Cunning Little Vixen”, at the theatre. Sitting in my own little room, I could relegate it to background music without a flicker, and wrote happily for the duration.
Which would seem to support the “language” theory; I can put to the background what I cannot understand verbally. But I still think there’s more to it than that. The fact that I can’t sublimate “Zauberflöte” is one clue. Another is the fact that I wasn’t really not listening to the Janacek (sorry about the erratic appearance of diacritical marks; I’m having trouble finding the ones I need here). It was feeding me. I wrote on the swell and depth of the music; not simply cut off from background noise by something more pleasant, but uplifted and inspired by it. “Pelléas”, although hardly insistent musically, insisted upon dominance; what happened between me and the “Vixen” was more of a fusing of equal spirits (hah! - and you don’t get to write that every day!!).
On the which distinctly kinky-sounding stuff, I’ll go on to “secondly”!
Secondly, the playing-out-the-scene-before-you-write-it thing worked really well. Really well.
I’d always had the idea that this particular scene would follow a fairly talk-y line. The fact that two of the protagonists are speaking mutually-incomprehensible languages was a snagging point, and I had decided that “playing it out” with that element omitted (so that I would not have to keep stepping out of my role-play to remind myself of my invented alien grammar!) would help me to get it straight. It did; I realised it wasn’t working. The problem was partly too much talk, partly, I suddenly felt, that one of my characters simply wouldn’t behave this way.
I sat down, re-wrote the whole thing, and am happy.
I’ve read other writers, discussing their own work, talking about the way that the characters take on a life of their own and “don’t want to do” what they, the author, have planned for them. It sounds deeply suspect, until one has the same experience oneself. It really is a most peculiar feeling. In this case, it has almost opened out a whole new aspect of the character; how she responds in stressful situations, and how that links into her background culture and her system of loyalties, her general way of dealing with things… I had never thought about this before; I should have done, but I hadn't; and now I have. I'm sure the best thing would be to be an accomplished enough writer to think of all these things straight away, when first conceiving a story. But as it is, the fact that I have thought of this at this stage cheers me enormously. It means my heroine is coming alive, as it were, on schedule.
Maybe, on second thoughts, it would not be good to have everything totally sorted-out ahead of time. Would these people come alive at all, if they were that thoroughly controlled?
So anyway - I am feeling pretty pleased with life just at the moment.