30 October 2009

The Second Time Around

I’m writing a … what do you call a second story in the same world? Is that a series? Is it a sequel? Because it’s not about the same couple, so ‘sequel’ seems like the wrong word. Anyway, I’m writing a second story. It’s hard because I’m not naturally set up to write series. Once I put a story to bed, that’s it. I’m ready to move on to something else. Maybe it’s a product of my gypsy upbringing. After two years in one place, I’m usually ready for the movers to show up. Time to go see something new.

Unfortunately, my gypsy days are at an end. I live in the Midwest now. In the burbs, no less. I’ve been here for three years and will be for the foreseeable future. Good schools, nice neighborhood, pool, sidewalks, all that American Dream stuff. Writing is the only thing that’s keeping me from drinking in the afternoon.

It’s an apt metaphor for my writing, though. Suddenly, I’m compelled – by forces outside myself, I might add – to write this story that’s set back in Culford, SC. Back in the Congaree Swamp.

I spend a lot of time on my settings. I know where my stories live. I’ve said before that if this place was real, I could walk through it blindfolded and know just where I was at every step. Culford is a great setting. I loved writing that little town.

But I’m having a difficult time with it this time around. Writing new stories in new settings is fun and exciting. Writing a new story in an old setting means that suddenly I have to work much harder to make things interesting for myself.

I worry that the secondary characters I loved in one story will seem saccharine the next time around. I worry that familiarity will breed contempt for all the things that were so charming the first time.

However, this is the hand I’ve been dealt. And much like my current status as a Midwestern suburban hausfrau, I’m going to make the best of it. I just have to dig a little deeper into my setting and my characters to make them feel comfortable, rather than merely worn.

And next time I sign up to write a sequel, shoot me.

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