Friday, April 18, 2008

Daydreaming Pays Off!

I've had a minor (major, possibly) distraction attack going on lately because of some of the characters who live in my head, but it looks like something might come out of this one. I have already confessed my tendency toward daydreaming in terms of "mental fanfic" and inserting my own characters into the story. Sometimes, this is a big game of "what if," where I come up with a new character just for the purpose of bringing out something in the existing character. If there's something in the existing character I think would be interesting to explore, then I mentally create a character to insert in that universe who would bring that out. There are times that by the time I'm through playing with it, it's not too hard to file off the serial numbers and have my own story idea.

Earlier this year, I came up with something like that -- a scenario and a new character in a "mental fanfic" that I think could easily transition into my own universe and become totally unrecognizable from the source material. It's a pretty complex story requiring a ton of research, so it will be a while before I outright work on it, but I still play with it mentally.

But then I found myself going back to that original scenario with that same inserted character, only I changed a thing or two, and it ended up shooting off into an entirely different direction. This time, it definitely wasn't a mental Mary Sue, but was rather the kind of character I might play if I were an actress cast in this series. When I was doing drama in high school, taking acting classes in college and afterward and doing some community theater, when I wasn't being cast for a specific skill (like the ability to memorize pages of monologue or turn cartwheels and do splits), I always seemed to be cast as either the quietly damaged character or the disruptive character who upends everyone's lives with her presence. In Tennessee Williams terms (although I haven't played either role), I was always either the Laura type in The Glass Menagerie or the Blanche type in A Streetcar Named Desire (I know that the loud, disruptive types were because my teachers were trying to shake me out of my usual reserve, but I'm not sure what the quietly damaged typecasting says about me). This character I found myself mentally developing somehow managed to be both, in weird and fascinating sorts of ways. I found myself dreaming up and even acting out in the bathroom mirror scenes for her, and I'd try to capture the nuances of her expressions and body language. It was a shame, I thought, that she was so specifically associated with the universe I'd put her into and getting specific reactions out of those characters, because she was such a fun character.

And then I realized that she actually was perfect for the story I'm just starting to develop. I had a major character who wasn't coming to life for me, and now I realize that this character is who she should be. Some details will have to change, but the core of her will be the same. I can even use one of the scenes I came up with almost in its entirety, and it works better in this story than it did in the mental fanfic. This was the spark I needed to bring this whole story to life.

So, all that daydreaming wasn't a waste of time, and the fact that I can have two divergent versions of the same story, plus what I just wrote, plus what I'm working on, plus what I'm brainstorming for the future, plus Owen, Katie and company all running around my head at the same time could explain why I sometimes have trouble remembering what day it is.

However, I do remember that today is Friday, and my Sci Fi Friday is back fully in force (though not quite exactly on its regular schedule -- Doctor Who starts a half hour early this week), with Sarah Jane, Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica. Three hours of geeky bliss. Now, though, I need to see if NBC has put last night's episodes of My Name is Earl and The Office online, since last night we got to watch hours of "there's a storm on the way, let's look at the radar again, and now let's go to this reporter so she can tell us it's not yet raining where she is."

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