Posted tagged ‘observer’

Dabbling in the Quantum Field

July 10, 2009

Spiritual novel 'SHASTA: Critical Mass'

 

In quantum physics, the act of Observation changes the object observed.  

 

Writers, especially novelists, beware. 

 

It is a truth worth remembering when knuckling down to the synopsis.  A necessary evil, some say;  but it is really important to remind yourself, when you lift your head up again after you’ve sent the ‘hook’ off to your editor/publisher/reading group that it was an exercise in stepping into the quantum field.  That’s all.  It isn’t really you.  You were acting as a mere observer presenting an object as you saw it to an outside agency.  The real you in still in there, champing at the bit, ready and waiting to get back to REAL writing.

 

I’ve been asked a few times: ‘So, what is your novel about?’  an open-ended – but natural – question from a reader.  The answer varies with the mood of the request.  Which got me thinking about queries in general and query letters in particular: oh, no, not again, sounds the imaginary chorus of rejected authors in the agent/publisher debate.

 

Any excuse will do.

 

There IS a case to be made for the poor, maligned, ever-hopeful, endless optimist writer; she does have to lay down all tools of the scribe and pick up tools of the adman to get her subject noticed.  Her query letter, synopsis and an impeccable first chapter are all she’s got.

 

But not today.   If she’s a trooper, then her Muse will return, the pen or keyboard will beckon and the wild ride will begin once more.

 

So what is my novel about?  The thing is: I didn’t think I was writing a fantasy adventure; I thought it would turn out to be an historical romance with some realtime spiritual insights; a kind of James Redfield-style handbook set in both past and present Scotland with a respectful nod to the New Age, California style.  I spent my childhood in Scotland, some early adult years in California and now swing between the two.  It made sense that I should draw on my own history to create an authentic atmosphere; I spent 20 years writing and giving lectures on the suppressed, unwritten history of my country. It wants to be told.

 

But my spirit soars when I step into the wild country of the Pacific Northwest and I guess my Muse knows that at her core.  So, let’s face it, after setting the romantic framework of ancient Scotland, my Muse was itching to get in there and change it all around.

 

As I began to relax and allow my characters to speak, Muse Girl (MG for short, thanks to S.King for his male version) wasn’t standing for any nonsense.  If it was authenticity I wanted, she would show me what the real message was in the book:  I am the instrument and she directs as the movie unfolds.  Drop the dry historical facts, castle interiors, ancient hunting forests, family lineages;  enter a succession of vivid past lives intermingled with a present day drama of a family caught up in cataclysmic events precipitated by a planet in environmental crisis.   

 

Even my title got changed:  it became SHASTA. You don’t want to know what it was before.  That got relegated to short-story-dom.

 

In some awesome way I could not (didn’t want to) control,  the 14,000-ft mountain colluded with MG to become the dominant presence.   And, gradually the historical corridor of my original vision morphed into a capsule which faded in and out, while a dormant volcano in the present-day Cascades proceeded to take over; create a tectonic miracle, and develop a scenario with potential to disrupt national and international communications. 

 

All right.  It’s true: a lot of writers see their novels as movies in their heads: it’s the way the right hemisphere transmits information.  Yet I was carried along on this visual current like a swollen river of ash and mud within a backdrop that was more than real. Daily reports issued by NOAA and the Global Volcanism Program were mirroring my scenes: Yellowstone, Mauna Loa, Kamchatka, Vesuvius.  There was no way I could put this down.

 

When each morning I went back to edit what I’d written the day before, the left hemisphere often had punctuation and grammar to correct, but the right hemisphere was right there (along with MG), ready to pick up where we left off.

 

Naturally Shasta saw to it that I learned Native American respect for her, researched her early history, became immersed in her volcanic past.  In process I discovered the difficulty humans faced constructing highways and railroads  in trying to tame her; her influence on local tradition, myths and legends surrounding her, filtered through New Age groups and sects that inhabit the valley at her feet. 

 

She is a rumbling giant; she never sleeps.   With or without a volcanic murmur, northern California suffers annual forest fires and spring deluge.   It’s what people live with all the time.  What I was being asked to do was to give it a little tweak to up the ante.  It all fit.  I had to move with the story.  It was telling itself.  And by setting the scene over one long weekend I simply brought the elements together to make it believable – in a fantastic sort of way. 

 

Ancient Scotland plays a part.  It has to.  In a quasi-science fiction way it becomes a timeline thread, interjected into the future-present narrative, meshing the background of the principal characters with a deeper element – I like to think.  Past meets present creates future earth where all is possible… of course I’m an idealist.   

 

So what is it about?  We should be grateful for the gentle reader, the well-meaning questioner.  It makes us look at genre (the agent/publisher’s tool) and in observing, perhaps changes us the writer from quantum instrument to quantum fly on the wall.

 

SHASTA made the decision for me: molded my characters, attached me to the project, wouldn’t let me go.  My historical journeys became woven through and around her, creating more substance than I originally planned.  But what story is not improved by a mystery weaving a web to pull one in, to keep up the pace, to NOT give away the ending?   

 

Quantum field? Personal movies or Images of this scale are beyond quantum physics, in my humble opinion.  A project guided from beyond? A spiritual adventure? Particle or wave, it chose me to put it into print, and I am the first to say that I, the observer, was changed by it. Not the other way around.  


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