Saturday, February 23, 2008

How Structure Causes Discovery

Back when I started writing Hell's Bay, I had two ideas competing for my attention. One of them had to do with the incredible damage phosphate mining was causing around the Peace River. As the photos above indicate, this has been an issue in Florida for almost a century. But little attention has been paid to the ecological damage until recently. That was clearly a subject I felt worthy of my attention.

This is a photo of the Peace River taken a few years ago. It's a pretty place, and a crucial part of the water system for the southwest Gulf section of Florida.

But I also wanted to write a story about an incredible journey I'd taken on a houseboat into the Everglades. The isolation, the wildlife, the extraoridnary scenery. It seemed like a perfect spot for very bad things to happen. Something in the general vein of James Dickey's Deliverance. Wildnerness trip goes terribly wrong.

Unfortunately, these two stories didn't seem to have much to do with each other. And I struggled for quite a while to find a way to link the two. If I'd been less stubborn, I would have just abandoned one or the other of them.

I finally settled on a solution that grew naturally out of a third thing I wanted to do in this novel--that is, to reveal more about Thorn's past. I didn't really know that much about Thorn's history when I started out this novel, but in the process of trying to weave these two very disparate storylines together, I discovered who Thorn's parents were and why the houseboat journey and phosphate mining were inextricably linked.

That's how I work. I discover stuff by letting my whims battle it out with my rational mind. It's not always fun or easy, but it's never dull.

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