mjhearle

Month: July, 2013

Lune Diary: The Haunted Piano

I had piano lessons from the age of seven till I was about thirteen. That’s a solid six years of music study. If you sat me in front of a piano now I wouldn’t be able to play much more than the opening bars of In the Hall of the Mountain King from the Peer Gynt suite. Don’t worry mum, those years of piano lessons weren’t wasted. If nothing else they gave me a solid grounding in musical theory which helped me pick up the guitar later on in life. They taught me how to actually appreciate music rather than just listen to it. And they provided the inspiration for this chapter of LUNE.

Peer Gynt Suite No.1, Op.46, thème a'2 de In t...

Peer Gynt Suite No.1, Op.46, thème a’2 de In the Hall of the Mountain King (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you recall, the last chapter ended with the mysterious arrival of a piano in the Lune household. This chapter begins with young Lune being awoken by someone playing the piano downstairs. The same eerie melody over and over again. Lune is alone in the house (his mother has gone out for the night) so is understandably a little unnerved by this phenomenon. Nevertheless, he gathers the courage to go downstairs and investigate. After completing a kind of musical puzzle on the piano, Lune accidentally conjures a magical creature named Stitchwhistle who then invites Lune to partake in an adventure. Or something like that happens. I’m being purposefully vague so as not to spoil the surprises in the story.

Piano

Piano (Photo credit: esc861)

I’ve written posts in the past that advise writers to always challenge their story ideas. Just because something feels fresh and innovative to you doesn’t mean it is. Case in point: originally I thought Stitchwhistle might come down the chimney in Lune’s room, or even travel through an old wardrobe. In retrospect these ideas are pretty obviously hackneyed (not to mention legally dubious – the C.S. Lewis estate probably has the whole magic wardrobe thing copyrighted) but at the time they occurred to me they felt brilliant. It’s scary not being able to trust your own creative instincts.

Still, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having to actually work at arriving at a creative solution. A million years ago, I was a young guy trying to make it in advertising. I had no idea about the creative process but I was working with an art director who knew his stuff. He taught me a lot about challenging and second guessing those initial ideas. To stretch myself to come up with most creative solution to a brief rather than the easiest or most obvious. That the process of being creative was as much a reward as the end result. Despite, never making it as an ad man, those lessons have held me in good stead. Just like the piano lessons.

M.J.

Lune Diary: Chapter Two

I’d like LUNE to have evocative chapter names.

The Hobbit does this extremely well with names like ‘Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire’, ‘The Gathering of the Clouds’ and ‘A Thief in the Night’. Chapter One of Lune is called ‘The Boy in the Tree’ but I have yet to name Chapter Two. It would help, I suppose, if the book was structured like a collection of short stories with each chapter serving as an almost self-contained narrative episode. Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it sounds. Chapter Two is full of largely connective tissue which I feel is essential for character development but doesn’t necessarily rocket the narrative forward. Which is probably why I’m having trouble naming it.

After getting into a fight with some bullies, Lune is called to Principal Wadkins office to explain himself. His mother attends as well and we get a glimpse into Lune’s not very pleasant family life. Both the principal and his mother don’t listen to him and seem annoyed by his very existence. The ‘cruel guardian’ figure is a pretty familiar fairytale –not to mention Dickensian – trope and I questioned myself before including it. Originality should always be the goal in writing but I find genre conventions are a useful shorthand in quickly communicating ideas to the reader. In this case, I need the reader to understand why Lune might be so eager to leave this world behind.

Lune’s mother is not a monster. She doesn’t beat him or force him to live in a cupboard under the stairs ala Potter. We learn that she had Lune when she was very young. Sixteen. This would make her approximately twenty-nine when the story begins. If she resents Lune for holding her back from enjoying her late teens and early twenties then I think that’s an understandable, if not condonable, human reaction.

It’s important that the world of LUNE is described in shades of grey. Frankly, I find the notions of absolute good and evil to be boring and dramatically inert. Like Lune’s mother, I want the perspective of the villains to be clear and relatable. That doesn’t mean they need to be sympathetic. In fact, villains are much more frightening if we at least partially know where they’re coming from.

Chapter Two ends with the arrival of the piano. Ah, yes the piano. One of the first truly fresh concepts I’m bringing to the story. So far everything might feel a little familiar. The piano will change that. Perhaps a good title for this chapter would be ‘An Unexpected Piano’. A nod towards The Hobbit‘s opening chapter ‘An Unexpected Party.’ I like it.

On to Chapter Three.

M.J.