I do some of my best thinking when I'm not thinking. It's true. That may sound a little counter intuitive, but let's face it...I lead a rugged life of adventure and non stop hilarity that would entertain millions of people if anyone ever wanted to make a sitcom of my life.
But I digress.
As I was saying, I do some of my best thinking when I'm not really thinking about what I need to be thinking about. Take yesterday for example. I was all over the place, from Covington to Lewisburg chasing down some drafting work while putting in some part time hours at the old job. Somewhere along the line, when I wasn't completely paying attention to what I should have been paying attention to, I figured out my character.
You see, I wasn't kidding when I said I wanted to write a murder mystery. I really did write them when I was a kid. I didn't understand near enough about the genre or life in general to pull it off with any degree of realism, but I did try to model my would be detectives on the classics...Sam Spade, Sherlock Holmes, the guy that Bill Cosby played on The Cosby Mysteries...
I've learned in my writing that to really write a character well, you have to understand that character. That's why Sam in The Crownless King is more or less a fictional me. That's also why Crownless is some of my best work to date. In revisiting the idea of creating a fictional detective I've been considering his back story as a way to really get inside his head without making him another fictional me. (By the way, is that something authors do a great deal of? I wonder how many famous characters are just fictionalized versions of their creator, who's living vicariously through them.)
And out of the blue it hit me. I've already written the back story. I just had to apply it. You see, when I was in high school I had this idea for the ending of a novel. I could see it all in my head. When I was a freshman at DSLCC, I put it down on paper (in John Barnes' World History class. I do my best work when I'm not supposed to be doing it.) I took it home, typed it up, edited a half a dozen times, and created a dozen pages of something that I've been proud to have written for six or seven years now.
But it was the ending to a novel that I had no idea where it started. There have been some vague rumblings, but nothing definite ever came to life. Now, however, it has become the back story of fiction's newest detective. I'm going to apply it and then see where writing new adventures with this detective takes the old story. If I can ever hash out the beginning of that novel, it will be a prequel to the new stuff I write. Who knows? Maybe I'll strike gold and write a bestseller that gets turned into a movie.
Then I can play the main character in the movie.