This morning, I attended a brunch to honor Carl Brookins, a founder of the critique group Crème de la Crime and author of several crime novels and series. Crème de la Crime was born from a writing course at The Loft, the organization which is to the Twin Cities writing community what infrastructure is to travel. Carl has decided to become emeritus after a 20-year-plus run of providing coffee, popcorn, and a lovely home to the group.The gathering of current and former members was an occasion for reminiscence, celebration, and conversation. How lucky I am to live in the Twin Cities and to have such resources as these.
So there I was, enjoying breakfast with friends, when the epiphany hit.
See, I have always been a science-based sort of guy. No mysterious suprafactual forces in my universe. But … something happened as I was bathing in the flow of conversation this morning. Maybe sitting in the aura of massive writerly power (there were seventeen of us) threw a switch somewhere in the occipital or parietal lobes and made me see the truth I have been missing.
I have been struggling with the design of my fourth Mayfield-Napolitani novel. So far, it has the problems I was tasked to change in the other novels: a complex plot (gene therapy gone bad) and too many characters. In writing Mayfield-Napolitani #1, Fatal Score, I was a proud seat-of-the-pantser. Also a not so proud and often frustrated rewriter (I published rewrite #14). This time, I knew I needed to outline. As a result, I have been writing out the procession of people and events, getting tangled, tripping, starting over.
Maybe it was always obvious, just not to me, but the outline I need is about what happens; how the story is finally presented is another matter entirely. Nobody told me that directly this afternoon; it appeared while I was contemplating the last bits of scrambled egg. I guess there are things we do not understand about the brain.
The brunch buffet was tasty, too.