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: