Recently, I was laid up with a bad knee and a bad cold. Sometimes I could write. Sometimes my head was too full of mucus. Then I took refuge in re-reading books I have liked. Serendipity joined me in that effort, teaching me how and what to focus my own writing on.
I began to re-read the novels of Charles de Lint. (Note: you can find all the books I mention on de Lint’s website.)
I haven’t read all of his books—there are a lot of them. Among the ones I have read, my favorite is Someplace to be Flying. Instead of jumping right to that, however, I picked up Spirit in the Wires, probably because my husband had spent the weekend fighting with his desktop computer. Spirit in the Wires is about magical beings who hijack a website. From that, I learned that de Lint’s endless, inventive detail is what makes his books so readable and popular. Since I began as a playwright, where short and elliptical is the way to go, I needed that lesson for my novels.
Then I re-read Medicine Road, where the main characters clearly have appeared in another story–a story I only vaguely remembered. This novel takes place in the desert, which has joined de Lint’s made-up city of Newford as a location for many of his novels. Serendipity being what it is, I then picked up one of his collections of shorter works, Tapping the Dream Tree. In it, I discovered a story about pixels becoming evil pixies—precursor to Spirit in the Wires—as well as the novella that pre-dates Medicine Road.
De Lint’s stories connect characters as well as places. The main character in one novel becomes a side character in another, and vice-versa. Because they all live in or near one of his story places, the overlaps are very satisfying.
So what have I learned? Not just to write the details, but to stick with a setting that works. For me, I think that will be The Dry Country. Stay tuned!