Part II – Story Richness (& More)
I have been faced with synchronicity lately—when coincidental occurrence of events happen with seemingly unrelated occurrences that become related, or are related in some way. This post is another incidence of synchronicity. (as was last week’s story)
Several writer friends agreed to all post on the same theme on Friday of last week. I was late getting word of it and had already posted Part 1 on story richness. Then I got the word and put the additional themed of post, our favorite art, up on Saturday.
This week’s theme is: a book that we can read again and again and still enjoy. Normally I would wait on Part 2 of my former post, but I already had it written and it ties directly into this week’s theme so I decided to combine them.
Coincidence or synchronicity? Keep reading.
Part II on story richness
The synchronistic part of today’s story starts back when I planned and began writing the original post two weeks ago. I took a break half way through writing the post and set it aside to read an article by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni in the March/April issue of Writer’s Digest.
Her article gave me deeper insight into the issue of going deeper for more richness—by bringing in details that tantalize the reader’s imagination. She said, “…a single protagonist alone could not express all the reactions one could have to this world within-a-world, filled with traditions and secrets.”
Her quote popped off the page for me because it directly applies to the story I am currently writing about ancient Japan during a very specific time in history that existed like a jewel in a box, all set off by itself; the Heian era of 980 A.D. Japan with its many ‘traditions and secrets’. (Out of this era came the ‘pillow books’ written by the high ranking court women about the sexual liaisons, the gossip and intrigues of the wealthy members of court. )
The other thing Chitra said was to get inside of your antagonist’s skin and understand the motivations. It is too easy to create stick figures for our characters and then slap on motivations. We may think we know them, but do we really have it down on the written page? Do our motivations (as we step inside their skin) seem logical and acceptable (just as a serial killer’s logic and reasons makes perfect sense to him, as crazy as it may be to others)?
The most important writing information came toward the end of Chitra’s article when she said we need to ‘use . . . our secret expertise.’ We all have our specialties, those things that we ‘know,’ that are natural and easy for us. I don’t think we need to force a novel out. It should flow out through the vehicle of what we know. That doesn’t mean we know everything, only that we have a certain feel for it. With the current book I’m writing that meant the love of past cultures, indigenous people, the ‘feel’ of ancient Japan and of past-life possibilities.
Sometimes our writing needs to breathe, like opening a bottle of wine. You have to let it become what it fully wants to become. A tiny seed of inspiration from the original novel I was writing exploded into a whole other story that took over and had to be written first:
My writing plan was for past life information to be included in the novel I was writing as the past-life love story; the back story for my two characters, but it got too big.
So, then I had to cut it out and write it separately as a novella. But then it became a small novel, and is now quickly moving into a bigger, fuller novel. It will be greater in scope than I originally planned.
It started as a small detail and if I hadn’t been flexible, I might have simply dumped the idea when it got too big and unwieldy. I would not have thought to expand on it, except my critique partners kept asking me questions about it, forcing me to go deeper, until one of them finally said, “I like this story better than the main story.”
Here’s where the synchronicity begins:
I started this post before I read Chitra’s article cited above. I expanded my post to reflect what she had to say. Then I finished reading her article and found out what novel she had written (before my writer friends decided on the theme for today's post).
Years ago I read The Mistress of Spices, an atmospheric, enchanting story that so impressed me by the exotic richness of it that I never forgot it—one of the few I have reread and listened to on tape as well—although I had forgotten the author’s name (not one easily remembered for the Western ear) until I read her article and saw the name of her first novel.
The writer who inspired this original post (that the themed post interrupted) is the writer of the book I put forward to you today as the book I have read again and again.
The author of that beloved story is Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni whose first novel was The Mistress of Spices.
Remember I had started this post two weeks ago, then learned of the book she had written, before my writer friends picked this blog theme of a favorite book that I have re-read and enjoyed each time.
Chalk that up to synchronicity.
P.S. While looking for the cover picture, I found that there is also a movie (2005) about it.
Have you had synchronistic experiences?
Read what other writers who are joining the Friday fun have written about a book they can read again and again without getting bored:
Cora, I began 2013 by reading Julia Cameron's The Artists' Way. Ms. Cameron is all over synchronicity, and in working the exercises in her book, I became very aware of synchronicity. Like big momma bellies when you learn you are pregnant, synchronicity was everywhere.
the synchronicity I take from this post? One of the first short stories I wrote I later entered into a contest. A Woman's Place made the final round of judging, enough to earn short critiques from each judge. Like any critique, there was much to learn. One judge felt the story was bigger, and that the lone character needed to work out her issues in dialogue. The judge challenged me to give my protagonist a mentor.
The advice was sound, but in the moment, I didn't know how I would accomplish the task within the confines of the story goal.
That was, oh, seven years ago. I am now at work on expanding that story, not only in character and scope, but in length. I have a full-length, high-concept novel outlined.
Really enjoyed reading your post, Cora. I love the way you tied your original post idea into this week's theme. I believe I've had many synchronistic experiences, but I often chalk them up to 'just' a coincidence or chide myself for trying to make more out of the experience than is really there. Not sure why I do this or what my underlying fear is of accepting the synchronicity of events.
Oh that's wonderful! Thanks for sharing your story. I haven't read The Artist's Way in a while, but I LOVE that book.
I recently read a book on synchronicity and suddenly found that there is so much of it around us that we dismiss or don't even see. Now that I have concentrated on it and acknowledged it, it happens more often and gets stronger. Soon you can't deny it any more. Every incident boggles my mind now.
I think synchronicity happens all the time -- like when you first hear about something (or a new word) and then you hear about the same thing the next day...
Going back to your comment about a backstory growing big enough for its own novel -- exactly the same thing happened to me. The novel I'm currently trying to finish started life as the backstory of my protag in the first novel I wrote... my readers all said the backstory was the most interesting thing. :-P
I had another thought as I read your comments about past-lives and loves influencing current lives... There's a fantasy author called Katherine Kerr who explored this in a series of novels back in the 1990s (I think). The first in the series is called Daggerspell. You might want to check them out...
Okay, I'm about to reveal my inner paranoid sci/fi self here. As a young child I thought/felt that someone, somehow was assessing my thoughts and using them as their own. I had a long walk home from school everyday and used it to let my mind be free. I thought how neat it would be for an ABC song, and boom - A you're adorable, B you're so beautiful made its way quickly up the music charts. It wasn't scary, per say. I didn't go around with aluminium foil lined hats( we didn't have kitchen foil then. Yes, I'm old). But it did shake me up and I would play mind games such as "This isn't really a good idea, it's a studpid idea, but --" just in case someone was really listening. Cue theme from Twilight Zone.
Yes, awareness of synchronicity seems to increase the incidents as well as making you recognize it when it occurs. I think sometimes we sleepwalk through life when we have so much other stuff on our minds.
The book you mention sounds interesting, Daggerspell. I will check it out.
Funny the stuff that goes through our young minds. But I do think we sometimes pick up things that are in the super-conscious mind (i.e. string theory where all things are tied together)and other people are doing the same. It is the ones that take the intuitive thought to fruition that brings it out for all of the rest of us (inventors often pick up the same idea and 'invent' a thing at the same time). It is only the child's mind that would spin it as 'my exclusive thought.'
And I know the mind games you are talking about. I did the same thing when I would dream of future events and they would happen exactly as I saw them, so I began to change what I saw myself doing in the dream when it began to happen in real life--I would do the opposite. Soon I stopped dreaming like that.
Dear Miss Cora Witcheypoo,
You need to stop setting my world on a runaway skateboard. Down hill, yet. As soon as I got the hang of the synchronicity word, woo-woo things collided, and you sent them to me. That blog of John Daniels' today where he talks of bringing out your childhood monsters and find the humor in them just slapped me in the face. Am doing a Dead Bird entry on a childhood person I've always wanted to do away with. Got a solid beginning, good ending, but the actual deed of dealing death has just stopped me. Guess I shouldn't have based it on a real person and events in my life. Soooooo, maybe I'll go for the lighter touch and slay my monster.
Slay that monster or make him laugh himself to death--go for it.
Cora thanks for sharing this - I think it was Ellen above who said it happens all the time. It's wonderful to recognise it even in the small things. I've put your book on my kindle tbr list and I might even try to find a copy of the Writer's Digest article.
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