Connecting characters and ideas to make both more interesting

What vexed me was how to create a story around concepts, how to attach and connect people to the stranger elements of the physical world I began to imagine. And then – the compassionate but fragile, resourceful yet scarred, UN worker, Susan Corporell. The fiercely insightful NYU physicist, a maverick who still yearned for validation, David Altaforce. A New York detective in all his earthy splendor, literally grounding the others in the face of a threat both existential and real, Sal Antifermo.   A physicist who at his heart cherished the notion of god while wondered at His intent, Driscoll Sebastian. And a woman whose very brilliance undid her in a world that was so uncomfortable for her, Mary Quinton.

It was the interplay of the characters that gave life to the corresponding physical worlds they represented. I will say that wasn’t easy for me. If I self-assessed my writing, in general, the screenplays I’ve tried, the other novel in the works, my short stories and plays, I’d have to say plot per se isn’t my strong point. I read stories of such imagination that I am in awe. I feel like I can’t just dream up something I haven’t somehow related to.

You may find that strange to say about a novel that ponders a world transforming from the corporal to the ethereal. I can only say that those concepts were real to me, unfolded in a visual sense, almost a logical extrapolation of basic precepts.

But I would have to say my early drafts were longer on concepts and theoretical exposition than on a dynamic interaction of characters. Thanks to Lou Aronica at the Story Plant, who had enough confidence from the first few chapters, which did unfold with drama and purpose, to prod me to develop more from the ingredients I had, forcing this chef to produce a better meal with what he had to work with.

I’ve always admired writing which teases out information, which circles back to events and people with ever greater illumination, so that there builds an inherent tension as events unfold – is this all, what’s underneath it, what more will I learn later? So I worked at visualizing my characters as they interacted down the road, not just at first sight. In particular, thinking about how they injected their distinct traits into the dynamic of the challenges they face, how they added or divided in facing unprecedented threats, when without experience to fall back on in knowing how to respond, they were left only with their core selves as to how to react.

Nietzsche (I think) said that spontaneity is the sum expression of the person in that moment. That can be exhilarating or disheartening, and as often as not produces wishes for second chances, so profound is the resonance of an act not completed, not satisfactory, a letting down of self.

So as characters spoke with each other, reported on their findings, went their separate ways and then reconvened with new information (or a disheartening lack of it), I tried to establish anticipation, tension, moments fraught with intimations of a future so starkly indifferent to emotion and context as to strip way the veneer that we all normally, and happily, wrap ourselves in. There are many ways that we experience what might be called action, the dynamic of movement that can be just as real and profound as we stare at a wall as trying to climb it.

In the end, then, what began with conjectures about the nature of matter became an exploration of the human heart as it confronted the matter of nature.

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