Let There Be Light
A good friend of mine once observed after reading several of my novels that in each of them something totally improbable happens in the first few pages and the rest of the book is spent making sense out of that unlikely occurrence. There is something to this.
I do not know how other authors get ideas or formulate the architecture of their works. For me, the paradigm is the Big Bang, the notion that everything in the universe (or Universe) was at the very beginning contained in an infinitesimal point that exploded (I believe the current term is “expanded”) for reasons no one understands. Hence life as we know it.
No one knows where that tiny point came from, so some wizard named it a ‘singularity’, which means, I believe, that it was a one-time event with no known origin. This is how an idea for a novel comes. There might be an explanation for it—I am, after all, a psychologist, so one would think I’d have some idea about this—but any explaining I would do would be as idle a speculation as could be done by anyone. The beginning of the novel always has the same feeling as the beginning of any new endeavor. “Let’s go to France,” say, or “Time to quit smoking.” New directions. “Let’s create a universe.”
At base writing is about creating something where nothing was before. This is as mysterious to me as the Big Bang, which, for all its theoretical elegance and compelling empirical underpinnings, still boggles the mind. The idea that all we see can be traced back to something we cannot see is a notion of dizzying significance.
I am sure there are laws according to which the Universe unfolds. I am sure there are laws that govern how novels unfold. In both cases, those laws are unavailable to me. The laws of physics are knowable to physicists, so they could be found. On the other hand, the laws that govern story development, I believe, are particular to any particular writer. To say “I make it up as I go along” is to diminish the experience somewhat, but I make it up as I go along. That is, I do not know exactly what the characters will do until they do it; I do not know what they think until they think it. Sometimes they are faced with choices that seem simple on the surface but are confounding to them; sometimes they do things with ease that I would find onerous or undoable.
So the things that are seen--the words on the page, the people and places and events that are so clearly in evidence as the story proceeds—derive from a source that is unseen. We do not know the Universe until it exists. I do not know the story until the character and the story exists. It is, at base, a mystery. Let there be light.
Paul Martin Midden is giving away a signed copy of his book, Toxin, to one lucky tour visitor. Go to his book tour page, http://paul-martin-midden.omnimystery.com/, enter your name, e-mail address, and this PIN, 8385, for your chance to win. Entries from Bookish Ruth will be accepted until 12:00 Noon (PT) tomorrow. No purchase is required to enter or to win. The winner (first name only) will be announced on their book tour page next week.