The East Coast/West Coast spoken word event went fairly well on Tuesday, although I think a lot of the success may have come down to the East Coasters considerable experience in live spoken-word performance; I had the feeling they were pulling out their 'greatest hits', which is fine, since there were a good few people there who wouldn't have heard any of them before. But we had at least fifty people all in all,in the basement bar of Blackfriars, which is a good number (the same place, as it happens that SCAMM used to meet until a couple of years ago). A lot of subsequent comments of the 'I didn't think I was going to enjoy it, but I really liked it - when are you doing it again?' variety. Unfortunately, nobody (including myself) remembered to take any photographs.
'Things Unseen' (or Wonderland, as I've been thinking of calling it instead) is halted just for the moment at fifteen thousand words, while I try and work out some of the intricacies of the plot. Basically, I need certain people to do certain things. For this, they need motivation. In order to have the necessary motivation, they need a certain kind of history/life experience that leads them to behave in the ways they do. That will also define the kind of personality they have. Which means, rethinking the kind of characters I've been imagining in my head until now.
For some people this isn't a big deal, but it comes down to my wanting to avoid having unnecessarily heroic characters. I've always been very heavily influenced by something Philip K. Dick said (I'm vaguely recalling here) that he'd rather write about ordinary people with relatively mundane aspirations than the kind of gun-toting violence monkeys that up until that point (late Sixties/early Seventies) had been, if not typical of, then certainly prevalent in a certain type of sf up until that point. When I wrote Angel Stations, I tried as much as possible to write about people who did the things they did because they literally had no choice. Elias bucked that trend slightly - he was more of your gun-toting hero type - but I made damn sure he didn't get off on it (far from it, as a matter of fact).
This part of the writing process is beginning to seem quite familiar to me - you get up to a certain point, you stop for a bit, figure out some of the details to get you through the second quarter or so of the manuscript, and hopefully including some of those cool/potentially interesting settings or events that were floating through your mind when the manuscript was only an idea rather than actual words. It's a little frustrating in the sense that the solution to all this - lots and lots of thinking - feels somehow less than proactive: after all, you're just sitting around, waiting. But I've been here before, and will be here again.