Why Would a Girl Follow a Boy into the Woods?

I can think of a hundred reasons why a wild girl would meet a boy in red at the edge of the woods and go after him. But only a few would apply if the girl in question is AlmaMia Cienfuegos. This is the logic I use when writing stories: I think a few characters, propose some questions, and write tales that detail the characters’ search for the most believable answers to the questions I’ve asked.

“Corn Silk,” the second tale in AlmaMia Cienfuegos and Other Stories, was inspired by this bit: “[Soledad] and the other teenagers pushed [AlmaMia] against a coconut tree and tickled her armpits until her underwear and legs got wet and warm.” I wanted to know (1) what would drive a sister to treat another in that manner, (2) in what way the deed would be done, and (3) how the event would affect those involved.

Wishing upon Earth and Bone, my NaNoWriMo 2013 project (25,136 words, halfway there!), is the product of a statement that left my Muse full of inquiries: “…bones have strong memories. And earth never forgets.” When Mamabuela, AlmaMia’s grandmother, said those words, I started to wonder… If the Cienfuegos matron is correct, then the land—the things growing in it, built on it, buried in it—will know all kinds of interesting details about its people. AlmaMia, my Muse and I make a very curious team. AlmaMia follows the Boy in Red to learn more about him, my Muse stays with her because she is nosy, and I write the adventures they bring back.

When I shared the information above with a friend who is also participating in NaNoWriMo, and who happens to be falling a bit behind, she said: “You are lucky, Magaly. My muse hasn’t said a damn thing to me in days.”

I told her I was going to write this post to explain something about La SeƱorita Muse…

My dear friend, when it comes to doing what we want her to do and when we want her to do it, the Muse is about as willing and reliable as a cat. And anyone who shares his or her life with a feline, already knows that cats would find the hurriedness of NaNoWriMo to be a direct insult to their naturally lazy disposition and independent nature…

I’m not luckier than any other writer out there. I follow routines. I share those routines with those who can offer encouragement if and when I need it—my Piano Man. I use the same general method when starting every story: characters, questions, possible answers (the tale comes to life while exploring the conflicts that always show up attached to the answers).

Although writing is extremely fun for me, this doesn’t mean that it is always fun; many times the fun is found in how challenging the process can become. I get happy when my characters provide a particularly strange answer, and I can shape it in a way that suggests that it is the only possible answer to the conflict at hand.

So… no secret lucky trick, just writing all the time; when the story flows easily, and when the storytelling process feels like every word is a drop of thick blood being squeezed out of my heart.
squeezed from Journey, who squeezed it from Google images

18 comments:

  1. Honestly I just finally read AlmaMia Cienfuegos and Other Stories last night. It's really stuck with me, and I'm really looking forward to more from her.

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    1. Yay! That makes me very happy because I'm writing on. Let's see what else the Wild Girl brings to the page ;-)

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  2. Congrats on reaching the half-way point in NaNo. That's kind of like being in the middle of a river. Can't go back, must go forward or it's just going to wash you down stream.

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    1. Indeed, Narrator. In the middle of the river, wondering if I can swim the rest at the same speed or if I'll just pass out when I finish LOL

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  3. Painting is the same way for me. Sometimes the pieces create themselves so fast I feel my fingers will shred themselves and I'll be left with stumps. Other times, though, Inspiration goes AWOL, and I plead and scream and stomp and sulk until she returns from her vacation. Usually a walk helps or good hard...exercise. ;-)

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    1. Good hard... exercise fixes so many things and relaxes body and mind. Hehehe.

      Thanks for the imagery, by the way. I can see the painted bloody fingers...

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  4. As someone who doesn't write stories, I found this post fascinating! So that's how it's done! Creating a character, posing a question and seeing how the character handles it. A revelation!

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    1. Different people approach their storytelling in different ways. I like asking why would someone do that (which might be why I find certain horror movies so ridiculous and unbelievable, I can't stop wondering, "Why would anyone do that?" It drives anyone watching with me a bit crazy lol).

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  5. I never needed a boy (or a reason) to venture into the woods. The woods were always the more natural space for me to exist in.
    I am happy this writing assignment is working out for you. Me and Cinnamon man are embarking on a creative assignment of our own this weekend, and if it turns out I will share it on my blog. But until then, it is a secret :)

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    1. That is what I love about writing and reading... I think they help us see what's important to people or what people find interesting. For instance, this post is hardly about the boy (and I would almost bet that if anyone wrote a book about a girl following a boy into the woods you wouldn't read it (I probably wouldn't either), but if the boy is only a child with his face mutilated, and wearing clothes that used to be given to the servant's of the protagonist's, we might take a second look, methinks).

      Hope the venture works out, so I can read about it!

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  6. Yeh half way!!! You should be very proud of yourself ;o) I think it's so interesting to learn how you write! xoxox

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    1. I've been doing Stacy's signature dance quite often :-D

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  7. Well, I am a visual artist you know. I find that the important thing is just sitting down to do the work, putting one foot in front of the other. You cannot worry about whether or not your shoes look cool, that's not important. Now, it does matter that you have the right type of shoes for the terrain that you're on. It doesn't matter how cute those pumps are if you're up to your ankles in mud.

    That is to say, you must not concern yourself with the muse. You are not a professional or hobbyist muse chaser. You are a writer or artist, and your job is to make the art properly, and those are practical considerations. You're gonna end up killing the darlings later anyway!

    I find this immensely helpful as an artist. My job is not to make beautiful art, my job is to make the art properly. If I were to try to make a beautiful piece of art, then I wouldn't know where to start, there's no procedure for such a thing. But making a PROPER piece of art, that's another story, I can determine what is proper, and I can organize those protocols into a PROCEDURE to proceed by. I know which step I have to take next, and I have on the right boots on for taking that step.

    And the fancy muse can come and sprinkle muse-y sparkles on it if she wants. I don't mind, I'm busy making art.

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    1. We think we all have very personal views about "proper" and "beauty"... I work on things that speak to me, and hope they will speak to others, too. Sometimes that doesn't happen, or not in the way I expect it, and that's okay...

      Sparkles!

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  8. I think you have expressed the ways of the Muses perfectly. Right now my muse has me in such a powerful grip if is hard to do much else except sit at my drawing board with any degree of enthusiasm. But I know she has her own rules and I accept it, sadly, but I accept it.

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    1. The Muse is quite the moody lady. I think we do best just to hope that we share her mood when she decides to show up!

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  9. This is truly wonderful advice, and I love the cat analogy. Hehehe Of course, it is not odd that one may think your muse is more active than most (just saying you are a super prolific wicked writer). I do so admire the amount and quality of writing you achieve all while keeping up with an amazingly full life. On my last birthday, my sister got me a big bag that says, "My Muse is a Very Bad Girl" I absolutely love it. Have a great week ahead sweetie. Big hugs to you, Mina

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    1. Your sister rocks! What a wonderful gift ;-D

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