I had an interview once with someone who asked me to describe the “arc” of a certain novel I had written. I know that “arc” is used by some writers to describe their work. That is; it has a beginning, reaches a peak and then builds to the denouement. I can look at my work AFTER it is finished and can see what some may call an arc. But while I am writing that never occurs to me.
Every writer has a different method of creating their fiction. I once knew a very successful writer (in the days before computers were so common) and in his writing room he had twine stretched from wall to wall. There were index cards pinned to the strings. Those were plot notes. He showed me how he arranged the cards to create what one may call an arc to his rather formulaic novels. It worked for him.
I had another writer who told me he “outlines” the whole novel before he even writes the first draft. Then, he fills in the outline. I could never do that because I never know how my novels will end.
I also had someone recently ask me “how” I write and I could not come up with a succinct answer to that simple question. Writing for me is a love/hate relationship. Writing is just plain hard and lonely work. But, on the other hand, to finish a well laid out and executed 250-300 page novel gives me a great sense of satisfaction that nothing else can, although I will never make a living from writing.
I also recently had someone ask me to describe my characters. What does so and so look like? To me my characters have bodies, and the “stages” on which they perform are plain in my mind but their faces are blank. There are no current so-called actors with whom I can associate the faces of my characters. I’ve had people tell me, “Oh, I recognized myself in your book!” but that is in their own minds. They see what they want to see. But time and again I have had readers firmly believe that my writing is auto-biographical. I wrote a short story once about a newspaper man who was an alcoholic. I don’t know how many people said something like, “Boy, you sure were a heavy drinker!” and I have never been a newspaper reporter nor have I had a drink of alcohol in thirty-three years.
If I can describe my writing technique it is this: It is like a “movie” that I see in my mind. I write what I see in the movie and then I write what those characters in each scene say to each other. Sometimes the characters surprise even me with what they say, and I freely admit that what happens to them I “feel.” If they hurt, I hurt. If they are happy so am I. So they are very personal to me. In fact, I have lived with my main characters for so long they want to wish you happy holidays. So Jack and Amy and my wife and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a productive and Happy New Year!