Thursday, May 8, 2008

It's in the details

I love research. Seriously. One of the best things about being in school is writing papers and the digging, reading, highlighting, annotating that is part of preparing to write papers. One of the best things about being a teacher is the reading, watching, noting marking that comes with preparing to teach a new text and developing context.

One of the best things about being a writer is research.

PERMANENT INK did not demand a lot of research. It was straight-up from the gut writing for the most part, with lots of experience and memory and conversation and imagination thrown in there. TINE, however, involves some research. The really fun kind. First of all, it takes place in two (maybe three?) countries. Luckily I’ve been to all three countries but still—perusing photographs, reading memoirs, travelling maybe? Second of all, my characters are multi-lingual. I am not. Third of all, it’s about graffiti. I am not a graffiti artist. And here’s where I have this little conflict.

I am a writer and a storyteller and I have an inherent need to write about this graffiti artist. He’s alive and kicking and bursting with details and so, I gotta get him out there. But what if I do it wrong? What if I have no business writing about this art and lifestyle that some people are passionate about and I have never lived? What if I bring him to life and he doesn’t feel real?

Does anyone ever feel this way—are you ever terrified of writing someone who you don’t know well enough to write? It’s such a bizarre feeling. I wrote this scene yesterday where Jacob is quietly explaining that graffiti originated in Rome—in wall carvings and political messages, just like he is doing in the very same city on some of those very same ancient walls, only in colors, only in vibrant style, only right now. It’s the moment where I first sort of fell in love with him, you know that moment, when suddenly your characters become people in your lives, people for whom you feel so deeply.

I just gotta get his art right.

4 comments:

Hillery said...

Your dream man used to play harmonica and coach basketball! Now he street paints (for the sake of art and politics) and speaks many languages. I'm thinking when you absonded to Italy, some of your youthful American fantasies sunk in the Atlantic. I can't wait to read more TINE! (Where's the H for happy? Interesting...)

Heather said...

now my youthful American fantasies are just from the POV of a 30 year old. Ill never abandon the harmonica and basketball love....

I forgot the H.
the irony...

Hillery said...

Really, isn't that so telling, your H omission? (BTW I meant absconded above, obviously.)

Lauren Bjorkman said...

Maybe it works because part of you is him, if you know what I mean. You're exploring yourself in a parallel universe!