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Let There Be Light - Illuminating a Writer's Universe

Posted by ceciliacapers on December 29, 2011 at 9:30 PM

Writing a novel is never easy. The craft of writing can be an all-consuming effort. Late nights and days filled with hours at a keyboard have been my norm since 2005 when I began writing my first novel. I have been writing since the age of five. As an only child, I learned at an early age to make toys as well as books substitutes for adventures with non-existent siblings. Several decades later as I am working on the final stages of my fictional creation, I have to pause to look back at how I got here in the first place.


Creating universes inhabited by people synthesized in my own imagination or loosely based on characters in books and television was my norm. I did not know it then but I was creating derivative works — at least that is how some of my musings could be described by the standards of the United States Copyright Code. Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble would cross over into stories where Ken and Barbie would be searching for missing toys stolen by some sinister scientist. Indeed, my childhood was never boring.


By the time I was in Mrs. Rosenberg’s third grade class, I knew how to disappear for hours in a world of creative wonder. On yellow paper with a number 2 pencil, I wrote my first eight-page short story. I can still remember it. Three or four young girls were competing to win a prestigious ballet contest. The ending is a bit fuzzy in my mind but I guess the underdog won. My teacher was shocked that I could write so much for my age. She took the story and “lost” it at a teacher’s conference. An early lesson was learned in not giving the sole draft of my work to anyone. That is what a “Ditto Machine” was for back in the day.


Skipping ahead to high school, I was a writing fool. Writing for the school newspaper and the literary magazine were my claims to fame. I was not on an athletic team or cheerleading squad but I was running the writer’s race. I would cringe if I received less that a 95 percent on a twenty-page one-act play or a fifteen-page creative story I handed to Mrs. Shapiro in my honors English classes. A 90 percent would make me crazy.


In college, I wrote and produced my first full-length play entitled The Life and Death of the Existential Black Man. The play explored racism, sexuality, and identity as well as the suicide of the main character, David Blackman, a successful lawyer whose world fell apart when the people and institutions that he idolized collapsed. I was seventeen when I started to write the play. People recognized my ability but I lacked the confidence to surge forward with my craft. The play was tremendously successful but in the months and years that followed, I got lost in my own existential conundrum. I ran away from writing. Akin to the tragedy of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the movie Inception, I let the universes I built collapse in the wake of my own self-loathing.


Similar to the after-effects of a tornado cutting through a small town, it took me years to rebuild my creativity. It did not help that I chased away the muses who inspired me. I had to appeal to them to come back but like all creative energy, just because you ask for it to return does not mean it returns immediately.


Like the lyrics Bono sings in U2’s song The Fly:

Every artist is a cannibal/

Every poet is a thief/

Both kill their inspiration/

And sing about the grief.


I had a belly full of human experiences and emotions but I killed the fire in my bones. The fire would return but this time I had to acknowledge my calling. The stories, muses, and energy have returned but I must handle them with care. The task at hand requires me to spend hours with characters that I refer to as ‘my children.’ I tell my supporters that my characters found me, I did not find them. This is not a creative exaggeration.


The entire plot of the novel came to me in a flash − I knew the ending before I wrote the first chapter. I write in a non-linear fashion, so there were days I would jump from writing one of the earlier chapters in the book to writing nine or ten pages of a later segment. Sometimes the characters are unruly or make bad choices. In other moments they make me laugh or cry. They are my complex, beautiful, brash, vibrant children who simply ask me to tell their stories in a clear, yet poetic manner. I respect their request and I am thankful to pen their tales.


Once again stating the obvious, writing a novel is never easy. It takes time and dedication to build a universe. Now, I have to get back to work.

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Categories: Creative Process, To Whom Much Is Given - Novel

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