Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Invention--the Mother of Astonishment

I haven't been writing very much lately--or reading. I've wanted to, but sometimes I feel like it's time to be a full-time mom instead. But I did manage to finally finish the last chapter and book of the Percy Jackson series today, and the last of Part I in "Characters and Viewpoint" just a moment ago. And both had me did they do it?
Have you ever asked yourself that after reading a book? Have you ever looked down at the thing you're holding in your hands and thought, this is a work of art. A master-mind project that is woven together so perfectly I never saw it coming, and now I feel so...fulfilled. Like I just experienced what the character did. How did they do that?
I remember asking that in fifth grade, after reading a Nancy Drew book. And I wasn't thinking about how Nancy did it either. I was wondering about the author. Where did they come up with this idea? How did they fit all the pieces together? It was like watching one of my Dad's mechanical machines he worked on. It blew my mind.
I think that's why I went into English ultimately. It was such a powerful feeling of awe, I couldn't shake it off, not even when I was in my twenties, not even now. I wanted to know how the machine worked, and how it was created--pull it apart, analyze it, duplicate it.
I think I probably spent hours as a kid wondering which details and characters were conscious decisions, or did they just happen and greatness was magically there.
Today my brain started to go there again when I read what Card had to say about it in his book: "Most of your decisions will remain unconscious. But the ones you are aware of allow you to open up your story with more invention, more possibilities, more space, more people for your unconscious mind to play with... The stories that astonish us, the characters that live forever in our memories--those are the result of rich imagination, perceptive observation, rigorous interrogation, and careful decision-making. When it comes to storytelling, invention is the mother of astonishment, delight, and truth."
I know a character is alive to me when I start to dream about them. Percy Jackson has visited my dreams multiple times now, along with Harry Potter, and yes, even Edward the vampire :)
Authors are some of the most amazing mechanical artists I know.