Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Author’s Blog, September 12, 2006

Writing Tip of the Day: Getting your character from one scene to another is like walking along a path. You don't want to focus on the path. You want to describe the journey.

I just went on a trip to Annapolis to do some on site research for my second book, Out of the Shadows. I’d like to thank my good friend Cheryl and her family for letting me tag along with them. It was the most amazing trip. We stayed in a rented house within walking distance of the Naval Academy and downtown Annapolis. I spent the whole weekend walking around the city and the campus trying to glean as much information as I could for the sequel of my novel, and I have the popped blisters on the back of both heels to prove it. This morning when I jogged, my socks ended up bloody. (Kurt Shilling has nothing over me—well, except that he can throw a fastball over 90 mph, a minor detail. But bloody socks aren’t everything, Kurt.)

I went to Annapolis knowing what I needed to find, but not exactly knowing how to find it. Little did I know that God basically had my entire trip planned out for me, and He took care of anything. Unfortunately, He did not pencil in "rest for Michelle" as one of His options. Let me tell you what I needed, and then what I discovered, so you can get a full understanding of how awesome God is:

1. I needed a football ticket to a sold out game so I could see the inside of Navy/Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (so I could write about it).
2. I needed to watch the midshipmen (Naval Academy cadets) do their march over to the football game so I could describe it in my book.
3. I needed to see the inside of Bancroft, the dorm, but no civilians are allowed in.
4. I needed to see plebes (freshmen) chopping (half-run/half-walk) through Bancroft. It's a form of plebe hazing. They have to shuffle down the middle of the hallway and yell, "Go Navy, Sir!" or "Beat Army, Sir!" each time they turn the corner. If they want to enter a room, they have to do a right angle turn on a deck plate. I knew all of this before I went, but I wanted to see it.
5. I needed to see the inside of a plebe's room on the forth floor. I also needed a room number. (My protagonist needs to sleep somewhere.)
6. I needed a coffee shop with: a) a back door, b) an area for a secret room, c) a restaurant right next to it, d) a street behind it that was residential instead of commercial that led to water if possible. An address of such coffee shop, if it existed, would be nice.
7. I needed to see every part of the Naval Academy that was on the water. (Can’t tell you why.)
8. This is the hardest to describe, but it is the most important. Tommy, my midshipman character, begins the story by deciding to look for Gabriella, his guardian angel (I call the cherubians in my novel) who was human for a while and disappeared. (Long story. It’s in my first novel, A Prophecy Forgotten) In APF, Tommy walks in on a few other cherubians who have morphed into humans and are attacking Gabriella. He goes into shock and forgets the incident for ten years until the beginning of my second novel, affectionately known as OOTS, when he dreams about the incident. Tommy notices, in his dream, that all of the guys who attacked Gabriella wore armor similar to the armor worn by Romans with holes in the back of their armor and their shirts (where their wings are when they are cherubians) so that Tommy can see the skin on their backs. The holes intrigue Tommy, and he begins wondering what the holes are for. To make a long story short, I needed a picture of an angel that Tommy could look at that would make him go, "Oh my, the holes are for their wings!" and realize that cherubians really do exist. I originally had something like this happening at his grandmother's house, but I needed it to happen at Annapolis, preferably at the Naval Academy. I wasn't sure what I was looking for.

That's a lot of needs for one trip. Look at how God answered them:
1. When I bought a ticket for the walking tour at the visitor’s center, I asked the lady if there were any tickets left for the game. She said that a friend of hers had given her their season tickets for that game, and that I could have one for twenty dollars. Right after that, the tour began. No wasted time.
2. The tour ended just out side the entrance of Bancroft, where the midshipmen had just lined up to do their march over. I followed them all the way to Memorial Stadium, and was totally inspired to add in stuff to my sequel that I hadn't thought of before. Again, no time wasted.
3. On Sunday, I woke up early to check out more stuff in the city while the Cheryl and her family slept. I returned five minutes before they left for breakfast (coincidentally). I went to breakfast with them, and then their son (a midshipman) took us inside Bancroft--the only day when civilians are allowed in.
4. There, I saw plebes "chopping."
5. Their son (you're not going to believe this) lives on the fourth floor of Bancroft. He showed me a plebe room close to his. I now have Tommy’s room number and a detailed picture of what is outside his window.
6. On Saturday, I took a wrong turn in the morning when I was heading for the Naval Academy. I probably ended up two miles out of my way, and right in front of a coffee shop with a) a back door, b) an area for a secret room, c) next to a restaurant, d) a residential area behind it, e) that led to water. I also have its address: 49 west street. Oh, and it’s on the exact same side of the street that I envisioned when I wrote the original scene, and the restaurant is on the correct side (has to be after the coffee shop if you're walking away from the Naval Academy). It is also laid out the exact same way as I imagined it, with the bar on the right side.
7. After half-time, I left the football game and walked around the perimeter of the Naval Academy that was on the water. I took careful notes.
8. When I toured the Naval Academy chapel, I saw a stained glass window one hundred feet tall—seems like it, anyway. The stained glass window is called “Admiral Farragut Memorial Window,” and it depicts Michael, the archangel, directing the admiral in action. Michael is wearing Romanesque armor—just like my cherubians and just like the armor Tommy would have seen in his dream. It was exactly what I needed. What is so weird is that I had no clue this picture was in the Nave (as they call the chapel) when I began writing this Elysian Chronicles trilogy. I had no clue Tommy was going to go to the Naval Academy, either. Truly a miracle.


Deb =Þ said...

hahaha. Bet you didn't know I had a blogger site as well! Great tips on writing -- too bad I won't be putting them into practice too soon. I have a blog at a different site, but I should start back with blogger...

Deb =Þ said...

I'm bored. so I'm stalking you. Keep up the great writing. It's funny because I blog and you blog, but your stuff is actually worth reading...