Friday, April 20, 2012

Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone? Part 4, Love in the Time of Cholera

I spoke in previous blogs about listening to what your own writing wants. Sometimes this involves fictional characters who have personalities and fates separate from what we might want them to have. A writer has to set his or her characters free so they can determine their own fates. This might sound odd, but let me give you an actual example.
When the Nobel laureate novelist Gabriel García Márquez was writing one of his masterpieces, Love in the Time of Cholera, he had a certain idea of what he wanted the family of the main female character, Fermina Daza, to look like. Here’s what García Márquez said in an interview about how he wrote this part of the novel:
“One of the characters was Fermina, an eighteen-year-old girl living in a Caribbean town in the late nineteenth century. She lived with her father, a Spanish immigrant, and with her mother, who I could not figure out. And there was her aunt, her father’s sister, who I saw very clearly and who had the same name. I just could not grasp the mother. I would seat them around the table and I could see how they all behaved—except for the mother. At first I thought the aunt was in the way. And I took her out and put her back again. But the mother was the problem. I could not see her, not the face, the name or anything about her. And then one day I woke up and realized what had happened. The mother had died while the girl was still young. And when I saw that the mother was dead, she became alive and real. She grew and had a great presence—in the house, in everyone’s memory. It made me so happy to resolve this. I had been stretching the logic of the book. I had been trying to put a dead person among the living, and that was not possible.”
I find it fascinating that a writer as masterful as García Márquez, talking about one of his best works, describes his writing process almost as if he is a spectator to the lives of his characters. His main role as he recounts it is to record what the characters are saying and doing. It is his job to determine what is authentic to the story and the characters, not to make the story come out the way he wants. He has to hold true to what he calls “the logic of the book.” This is where I feel the presence of the muse, because there must be some power that determined that Fermina’s mother had to exit the book as a living character. 
Maybe the muse is another name for what García Márquez calls the “logic of the book.” Even to García Márquez, it did not seem as if he was making this edit himself. It’s amazing that he trusted the creative process so much that he could give his characters the freedom to develop that much on their own. When he discovered what the book wanted, rather than what he wanted for it, García Márquez had what he called in the same interview “one of the most curious and enjoyable literary experiences” he ever had. I think when we are writing at our best, this is how the experience feels to us, as if the muse is powering the writing, and we are the vehicle for her work.

In my next blog on the muse, I'll talk about voices in the writer's head, what they are, and when to listen to them. 

Other recent posts about writing topics: 
Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone?: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

1 comment:

  1. That is the muse! We are the vehicles for the inspiration...just like that scene of Mozart reading the music in the film, was like he was transcribing what he was being sent in his head....The Muse at Work.

    magical thinking rules! :-)