14 July, 2001

I really have to do something about this self-inflated ego thing I've got going. It was bad enough in the June 18th journal entry when I talked about this journal being the greatest and most challenging work that I have ever attempted. It actually got worse with the June 24th journal entry when I talked about knowing the characters better than they know themselves. Looking back, it is just embarrassing. Oh, look at me, I am ever so smart and important. I know the characters better than they know themselves. It's all part of the image. You know the one. All of us creative/artistic types have egos bigger than our heads. I'm not trying to say anything bad about the lifestyle or the people who partake of it. I'm just saying that it is embarrassing to read something I slathered down a week or so ago and to think what a great big crab-apple doofus I am.

It's not even true.

The bit about knowing the characters in a story better than they know themselves isn't true. It's a fantasy. Something that writers make up so that we sound self-important. We are the masters of our domains. We only hope if we say such stuff long enough and loud enough that we will believe it ourselves. I should really stop using the royal we here. I can only speak for myself.

The truth is that I do not know the characters in a story. I don't know them at all. Oh, I can try to know them. I can learn everything I can about them. I can even pretend that I am telling them what to do, but the truth is that they do whatever the hell it is they feel like doing. The best I can hope for is to hang on for the ride.

You will hear writers talk about this. The unexpected turns that their stories took. The things that weren't supposed to happen or were supposed to happen in a different place or at a different time. Kosh's death in Babylon-5 for example.

The best I can do is try to know the characters. By reading and re-reading the bits and pieces of a story, I can try to stay immersed in it, but it's like being immersed in the ocean. I may be in the ocean, but I am only actually in contact with a very small portion of a very large sea.

I have discovered that the best-laid plot will never actually survive contact with the details of a story. In my youth, I tried to maintain control of the events of a story. The story would submit! The characters would obey! Things would get very frustrating and lead to very many blank and crumbled pages. The secret is to let it go, which is much easier to say than to do, but it is the truth.

I recommend planning ahead. I like to have a sense of where a story is going. It is always better to have an ending in mind when you have a beginning than to have no direction at all. The trick is not to worry if you get there. Sometimes something much more interesting will happen, and other times the characters just flop around and the story sucks. If things get out of control, I have a sporting chance of reigning things in. I'm not going to regain control. I was never in control. I only hope for the best.

This has all been a very roundabout way of saying that work on the prequel to The Magic Flute goes slowly. It would seem that the disparate parts of my life are intruding on each other. The day job is supposed to put food on my table and keep a roof over my head. It's supposed to stay a day job and not bother me at night, which is the only time I have to do everything else I have to do in my life like write.

The problem is that the day job got messy. I won't name names or anything. It's enough to know that I worked for a dot-com as a tech writer, and the dot-com got into a spot of bother. It stopped paying its employees. This kind of thing seems to be happening a lot to dot-coms. Hey, I wasn't in it for the money. I thought being a tech writer would be cool. It would get my day job into a space that was more akin to my nighttime endeavors. Meaning, I thought it would be more fun.

After five weeks of not being paid, I decided enough was enough and quit. At first, I thought this would give me more time to work on the more important stuff like writing or maybe even give me the chance to promote The Magic Flute. Nothing of the kind has happened. I have found most of the last couple weeks spent looking for work, dealing with the unemployment office, and trying to figure out how to get the money the dot-com owes me.

I have begun working on the prequel to The Magic Flute. I simply am not working on it with the energy and enthusiasm that I thought I would have. Being broke—because I wasn't paid for five weeks—and unemployed—ditto—has proven to be a bit of a mental brain drain and bother. I am working on the prequel. Only not very fast.

copyright © 2001 by keith d. jones – all rights reserved
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