Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Saturday, 26 January 2002

Yesterday we had dinner at the Basmati. Jackie was delighted to learn that they have added masala dosa to their menu. I can see that we'll be eating at the Basmati a lot more often for the next few weeks.

It seemed too nice a day to spend time in the gym, so we decided to get our exercise outdoors. We went for a walk around Kaufman Lake, with a little side trip up toward the other nearby lake.

Besides our walk we went to the bakery to get bread, to the bookstore, and to the library.

This evening there are two Buffies on TV, and one's a two-hour Buffy. That'll probably be enough, so we won't need to watch any of our new DVDs. If so, we'll probably manage to stretch out the DVDs to last a full week after all.

I got an idea for a story. It'll be a fantasy, rather than sf, so that'll be a nice change. One reason for the library trip was to pick up some books for research. I got far more than necessary, as all I really need to get from the books is some local color, but this way I'll have a lot of options to draw from. I'll put in some more details, once things begin to firm up.

I want to work with characters that have more complex motivations. In the past, the characters in the stories I've written tend to be motivated by self-interest. That works pretty well. Most people are motivated by self-interest, so my characters feel realistic at that level.

Real people, though, often are motivated by other things: God, country, family, truth, justice, honor. Most of the time you can still get to self-interest one or two levels deep, but not always, and anyway it's an unnecessarily cynical view of people to be constantly saying, "Well, he says it's for God, but it's really just because he wants to go to heaven."

It's often serviceable to choose characters with few family ties, few social obligations, because it makes them free to take radical action. They work especially well in wish-fulfillment stories. I've read a lot of stories about the character who is smashed out of his or her social role and therefore is free to give in to long-suppressed desires. Despite liking that kind of story, though, I tend not to read them any more, unless there's obviously more to them than that. (That doesn't mean I'm not going to go see the new "Count of Monte Cristo," though.)

Lately I've tended to take more interest in reading stories that show their characters enmeshed in obligations. It's interesting to see a character struggle to reconcile desires with duties or striving to chart a course through conflicting obligations.

My new story idea fits into that space, I think.

Jackie has been very hardworking the last few days, organizing the files on the one hand and sorting through books on the other. She's such a sweety! She's made some more space for my expanding array of books.

For people who have been married nearly ten years, our book collections are surprisingly unintegrated. This is because our choices of types of books to buy are virtually non-overlapping. (Our tastes in books to read do overlap some, happily.)

I have lots of old paperback science fiction and fantasy, and lots of new hardback science fiction and fantasy. I also have a smaller number of paperback mysteries. In non-fiction I have:

Except for that last category, Jackie's books fall into almost completely disjoint categories. She has books about fiber arts, spinning, weaving, quilting, sewing, and embroidery, about anthropology, about India and especially south Indian languages. She also has lots of novels by Indian authors.

The result is that there's never been much to be gained by merging our book collection. The overlap was minimal: two copies of the compact edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (so I have one at the office) and two copies of Joy of Cooking.


Philip Brewer's Writing Progress homepage