Notes to Self… — Now What Did That Mean?

my handwritten page 23 from “Mistakes by Moonlight” — click to enlarge

I have been writing (again? I am not convinced I lagged, just got distracted — partly by this blog), as I have mentioned several times in recent weeks. Forward progress has occurred (love that latent passivity there, as if I havenʼt done a thing actively myself) on Søren and Judahʼs adventures, Mantorville (although in bits and drabs from all over the complete storyline, but I will have an update on poor Arkham soon), a second Tourist story, and even Stars in Heaven (youʼve had the chance to see some new material and will have more soon). I havenʼt written about writing much, even though I saw the blog originally as a forum to explore and improve my own composition process (there speaks the pretentious teacher guy).

When I started “Mistakes by Moonlight” back in late February, I got excited, using the MacSpeech Dictate software and microphone and all, to get some of it up here for your perusal (and concomitant noncommentary, I discovered). I put up pieces into chapter 2, and right now I am working on chapter 9 and/or 10 (with all the handscribbled intervening material yet to be dictated or typed). What makes this gap worth discussing is that I have definitely determined to change some of what you have had the chance to read already. In particular, the fight in the alley that opens the story is going to end differently than it does right now (maybe you all should go ahead and read the first chapter — again?).

As you have it (until or unless I make the change I have in mind permanent by revising that posted section under Longer Items here on the blog), Søren rescues Judah from attackers, then almost has to fight the suddenly, strangely crazed victim himself, then they talk and leave. I have to add one more complication (not that the attackers posed much of a problem for my two swordsmen, I admit) to help my plot out. Before the two adventurers leave the bloody alley, they must hear something — heavy footsteps, supernaturally heavy, marching toward them. Worried, they scale a nearby building to the roof and hide as the evidently huge and heavy walkers stride to the alley, pause in dark shadow, and then march away. Søren (I think it will be him) catches a glimpse of the massive figures, two of them, departing: too huge to be human and strangely stonelike in their brief appearance and motion. (None of this is written as I type this post, just planned and noted in the big red notebook. And itʼs my notes that I want to talk about here, eventually.)

Furthermore, Søren takes a cloak with him from one of the attackers. He will even acquire the pin which closes the garment at the neck, and both the cloak and the pin need to be emphasized at least a little (which isnʼt true in the text you have available, yet). Sound mysterious? Good, partly intentional.

notes I did not transcribe for this post on page 43 from “Mistakes by Moonlight” — click to enlarge

I got interested in thinking closely on these improvements/additions, to notice what I added as I first dictated the first chapter to the computer. In the handwritten story, Judah (whose name then was still Nathan, familiar to longtime readers, I hope) never attacks Søren. I added that in dictation/revision, having gotten a better idea of what Nathan/Judah was like and knowing I had to present a piece of his peculiarities early. Itʼs interesting how the imagination works — revising the original version so quickly that the story as I know or feel it is very different from what I have actually written (and this process continues over and over again so far in that story as I make it up, sometimes layering unwritten, partly planned, noted, sketched revisions of revisions onto still just imagined bits of plot and narration outside the text as it stands in ink). The imagination flies significantly faster than the pen (literally the pen for me in this case), so notes to myself become vital to keep the good (and even bad) ideas available and unforgotten (unfortunately one of my falling asleep habits is to think over storylines, and sometimes/often the ideas I get in bed just donʼt persist past dozing off).

Of course, some notes arenʼt going to fly; I think about an idea or possible development/revision but donʼt follow up on that route. From my handwritten page 23, noted in the top margin:

  1. start out not liking each other (not trusting)
  2. some conversation en route (Calle des Sueños).

Right now, neither note is going into the story (I think, right now). I still have the two adventurers taking to each other, more or less, right off, even within the intimate privacy of my own thoughts. The conversation issue (which occurs in chapter 3, so you donʼt get it yet, as they walk along the main street of the city, the Street of Dreams*) is not clear to me yet. Perhaps I donʼt need to prolonged lull as the two get to know each other (and we them). Instead we need to move right along to more action, the robbery that is the heart of the plot. (Amusingly, as the Maltese Falcon essay seems so ancient to me now, being essentially finished, a page or two later in the notebook I have this notation: ‛MF Effie knows Sam likes “knockouts” — subordinate will to desire.ʼ I was still working on that essay as I was writing those pages of the story.) And I come up with Judahʼs name in the top margin of page 44, with a question mark. On page 50/obverse (itʼs not numbered) I tried my first set of detailed notes:

  1. III talk about magicians and tricks → Kabbalah → God → Nathanʼs problem en route to her place
  2. IV golem walk past them in dark inside but attack as they leave
  3. Nathan thinks like Spinoza
  4. V Larissa speaks to Søren in Norse!

This is page 53 from “Mistakes by Moonlight” — click to enlarge

The Roman numerals are chapter indications. [Notice I was — maybe I still am? — thinking about that extended conversation en route to the robbery.] Clearly I hadnʼt settled to change Nathanʼs name to Judah yet, two months later on (that page is dated 5/21 and 6/5, while page 44 was written 4/23). I havenʼt incorporated any Spinozistic thoughts for Judah yet, but Larissa does by chapter 8 speak to Søren in Norse.

Then above the text on page 53, a bit further on, I have, unnumbered this time

      • Take cloak as leave first fight
      • No robbery first night because…
      • Dukeʼs soldiers fete them later = Big Drunk
      • Later: Dukeʼs pin on cloak → officer
      • Plan → swing across climb down from observatory
      • Fight golems outdoors, after, → scratch ’emet on foreheads → get stronger → then remove the ’alef
      • Track Judah to Roman ruins — Necromancer seeks revenge there

The text around it is dated 6/16. You can see this records my ideas about chapter 1 revisions that I discussed earlier. These ideas also include postponing the robbery from the night the two men meet until a later evening; I just might do that, which allows the walking conversation to occur, in different circumstances, perhaps… The sixth note about the golem is marked with a question mark, and I asterisked the Big Drunk note for emphasis. How much of that is still part of the story (to me) today? And what does it all mean? This post is long enough, and patience is a virtue.

I hadnʼt stopped to realize: those who can decipher my scribbles get from my scans brief previews of events to come in the story…

* I need to find out the Arabic in transliteration for “Street of Dreams” if anyone can help me. Google translator just gives me the Arabic, and I want to present the sounds/the transliteration in the story(-ies). Suggestions?

2 thoughts on “Notes to Self… — Now What Did That Mean?

    • “is” I believe.

      I have it already, thanks, but Google Translator translates into Arabic script. What I needed (and I have located several now but am open to further suggestions) is a way to turn that Arabic script into Latin letters/phonemes…

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