Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How a Writing Mind Works--Kernels

~~Writers are asked, "How do you do it? How do you get your ideas? How do you write?" all the time. Sometimes we can't really tell what caused a specific scene, but at other times, it is quite clear. Lately I've been experimenting with what Diana Gabaldon calls "kernel writing." Read her description HERE. In the past, I've not been the most adept at getting these little bits down as they occur and I'm sure some of the very best have gotten away from me.

~~Now that I have Inner Editor entertained and distracted, I've been having more and more kernel moments. Today there were two specific instances. One was not a real surprise--it dealt with a scene I've been working on for FRIENDLY FIRE. The other was completely out of the blue. It deals with an idea that has been bugging me for years with THE DAWN AND THE LION. I've known how the military saluted their superiors in the chain of command for over two decades. It really never made much sense and at times, I've tried to change it, to no avail. Today I found out the symbolism behind the salute.

~~I have been rereading Catherine Asaro's SKOLIAN EMPIRE series and the method of salute kept standing out.
"The officers saluted, raising their arms to chest height, outstretched with fists clenched, crossing their wrists with the snap of muscled skin hitting muscled skin." (THE RADIENT SEAS p. 274)

~~Then I had a clear scene to pop up in my mind that explained the salute and moves plot along nicely. The POV character is Canda Aurora, the female protagonist. Even without knowing all that goes before or comes after, I think this kernel will illustrate how my mind was working this morning. Note that the general mentioned has no specific name yet, so X stands in its place. I hope you enjoy.

A chill walked up my spine. August was dead. No one had to tell me. No one needed to share their grief with me. Mine was larger than the three worlds. Larger than a human heart could survive.

General X, the chief of staff, second in command stood before me. "My Lady Regent." His hand rose sharply and he touched the center of his forehead with his fingers. I'd seen the salute a thousand times since I came to Patria. A salute to Brennan, to August and now to me. No matter how I grieved, I had responsibility. For General X's salute said it all--My mind is yours to command. The chill became a blizzard.

~~How do your scenes come to you? Do you find inspiration in what you read or do they develop from outlines?