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"The One About..."

So I write. It's a sporadic thing these days, as I'm not in the groove very well, but I write. I started out with short pieces, but starting in 1994, it was mostly novels.

I've discovered that when I write novels, it's always "the one about..."

The first one, 1994-2000+, Ectogenesis, was a fluke. It's a One About, but it'll either be forever unfinished, or will be raw material for a whole bunch of other projects. I class it as a novel, because it's easily novel-length and then some, and the story is mostly complete, though missing large gaps. In its original format, it will never be publishable. It was a One About the events of my life in 1994 to 1997, as seen through the eyes of How It Should Have Happened If It Were A Novel. It lacks focus and polish, but has plenty of spirit and effective characterization. (I know, because I was taking pains to see if something or other would actually have been said by the people who were saying them.)

The second one, 2003, The Necromancer's Prayer was exploring something that needed writing, and went somewhere really interesting. This is the One About those nights standing outside the dorm at nights with the smokers, lighting my incense off their lighters and swirling the smoke so I could stand to breathe while standing out there and looking down into the lights of Fairbanks. It's also the One About 'Milly, and grief for not only your own loved ones, but loved ones you've never known.

The third one, 2004, Home Movies from the Cutting-Room Floor, was the natural expansion of all those Shawn Stories. This is the One About the good stuff, the slapstick stuff, and why he stayed my best friend all through high school. I could dedicate this one to him in public and not regret it.

2005 was the ill-fated Welcome to the Workplace, which never got off the ground, which was a One About, but not a very interesting one, and Dogs of War didn't get past a few pages either, because it wasn't a One About, and I couldn't get into it. (A workplace procedural about a dull workplace is dull, and I couldn't get into the actual part where our heroine actually flies off the edge because I hadn't driven her insane yet.)

The fourth, 2006, Circle of Fire, was another One About, and what an epic One About it was. I can't dedicate this one in public, but it's about magic and love, and it's both magical realism and romance, which I guess makes it a supernatural romance. And then there's Hell's Angel, which is set in the same universe as Circle of Fire, and is between Circle of Fire and the sequel (even though it was started first), so it's a trilogy, because the gangs from both books are going to get together for the finale, once it's all put together. Hell's Angel isn't quite a One About, but it's part of the same universe as a One About, and it is the One About rhea_windrider getting drunk and meeting a devil, in the same way that "A Cup of Time" is the One About my career as a homemaker.

2007, still unfinished, is Welcome to the Workplace II, which has a lot more promise. It's the One About That Relationship (in a warped alternate universe; the real relationship was much better because both the participants are so much saner) and the One About Volunteering Actually Working Anywhere and The One About The Great Unknown and The One About How Insane I Really Was In 2001-2004. And it's got dragons. What's there not to love about a perfectly insane protagonist and dragons and a workplace that is Corporate Geek America On Crack. (And to think, it all started from an image macro of coffeechica drinking wine! Though I promise that coffeechica is far more sane than Bosslady, and really the only thing they have in common is that they both: manage people remotely, work in the IT industry, and like wine. Oh, and are female. But the ruthlessly competitive girlfriend-stealing hardass part? So not her. :-P )

And now we've got The One About Post-1996 brewing. This doesn't have enough in it for me to either title it or tell whether it's going to be a novel or just a story, or just a starting. But it's a One About, there's no mistaking it.

So why do I write these? Why is the seed always something that really really exists, or really really happened, and not a dreamscape or a generalization? I don't know. I can write short things that aren't based on anything really real, but there's always more blood, more life, to something when I start it from something that's real.

I'm proudest of my characters who are only loosely based on a sketch of a real person, and who have since developed their own personalities. There's very little creativity involved in making a faithful copy, though plenty of craft. (When other people were honing their craft through fanfiction, I was honing mine on Ectogenesis.) Jeff Erickson is one of my all-time favorite characters. His full name is Jefferson Cecil Hilary Erickson III, but he will smack you if you call him that. He's Jeff, dammit. He looks like a guy who went to preschool with me. He's friends with a guy who looks like a guy he was friends with in high school. But he's his own character, and I don't even know if he'd get along with the fellow that inspired his paper-doll. They might. They might not. I don't know the actual live human being well enough at all, or anymore, enough to tell whether they would or not. I don't think he'd have that same life if I'd just made him up entirely. Even poor Bozo and Sally's crazy girlfriend Harriet were based off of actual humans somewhere back in their genesis. It's fine for a minor character to be entirely fictional, but for a major character, I must start them somewhere real.

It's the same with plots, or at least tones. I don't always know what my plot is going to be when I start out. I start out with the tone, and from the tone, I determine the characters, and from the characters, I build the plot. Once I get far enough in that I can figure out what this is about (generally an era in my life) I draw on that era for plot/character/development information.

It's always The One About something. I don't think I can get away from that, and I don't think I should.
Gone away, gone ahead,
Echoes roll unanswered.
Empty, open, dusty, dead.
Why have all the Weyrfolk fled?

Where have dragons gone together
Leaving weyrs to wind and weather,
Setting herdbeasts free of tether;
Gone, our safeguards, gone, but whither?

Have they flown to some new weyr
Where cruel Threads some others fear?
Are they worlds away from here?
Why, oh why the empty weyr?

-- "The Question Song", Anne McCaffrey
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