In Part Two, Rus and Jodi discuss the strengths each other brings to the project, how they feel about losing control of the core narrative and they introduce you to the characters at the center of the story.
What strengths do you see each other bringing to your writing partnership and to this project in general?
JC: Rus has passion. Rus has deep curiosity. Rus has a joy for the human condition (in all its conditions) and a zest for life that infuses everything he’s involved with. The Glass Marionette is a better project for all of this, right here at the beginning, and I know it will be the same at the end. Rus is the ultimate motivator!
Rus wants to say something when he writes. Something profound. Something important. But he’s not all serious about it and neither is his writing. What Rus writes is an extension of who he is and that’s one of his greatest strengths. There’s an inherent honesty in his writing, just by virtue of the words being his. He honours the page and the page always honours him.
Rus mad-writes (yes, this is now an official term, if it wasn’t before) and in doing so, he brings the chops to move the narrative forward quickly and to maintain momentum in real space and time. And this kicks me to step up my game and avoid procrastinating. When we get going again, we aim to bring the project to its conclusion in 10 weeks – that approximately 70K combined words in 10 weeks. I love that kind of speed and madness.
Plus, I’ll be honest, Rus is writing at the top of his game right now, and he’s pushing me to meet him where he’s at. And that’s a massive benefit for me. And for the project.
Lastly, it was Rus that brought the first list of rules to the table to discuss. He’s always got his eye on the intricate and complex natures of the characters AND the larger narrative picture. He’s the perfect balance. (I’ve joked in the past that Rus’s writing style and creative approach bridges the extremes represented in Adam’s and my writing at times).
RV: Jodi is my road-trip, let’s-go partner who always pushes me to go deeper in my thinking of story and character. I don’t believe I have ever worked with another creative who grinds into my thinking the way she does.
When I first met Jodi, she was my editor for an international writing blog. She mentored and coached me as a writer, opened my eyes to new approaches to story, and established in me the now ever-burning question: “What if?” when I write. She is the creator of my greatest plot twist in my next novel, Fossil Five. Jodi has the power to hear me out, think a little about what I am sharing, and then throw down a three-word response that blows my mind and my story. She’s that good.
I think Jodi is a more dangerous writer than I am, and that pushes me to write with greater risk. I sometimes can’t help being didactic in my writing, but Jodi’s strong sense of character and out-of-the-box thinking keeps me focused on preaching less and entertaining more.
One more thing: Jodi is a poetic writer. She uses few words to say big things. I can’t study her writing enough to learn more about how to do that. As I am writing my chapters, I am thinking about our styles: where we are alike, and where we are different. I constantly try to be more concise — like her — without compromising my style or my own voice.
Jodi makes me a better creative, both in collaborative and solo projects.
How do you feel about having no control over the core narrative direction of most of the project?
JC: Bring it on. It is an equal mix of terrifying and exciting, which for me is the sweet spot. I have always leaned toward shaping my writing around prompts, using them as keys and launch pads to propel me elsewhere, and this will be no different.
Dave Versace is an old writing friend and I’ve had the honour of having my fingers dug deep into his stories, and him in mine, so I know he’ll serve something up that pushes the narrative without breaking it. He was able to read the first few chapters to get a feel for what we were trying to create before he wrote the prompts and I trust what’s going to show up every week will raise the bar of my writing and the story, and where Rus and I will get push each other.
Interestingly, this is the most structural testing and planning I’ve ever done. I have developed the complete time line for the novel (I would die doing this with one of my own novels) to complement the mathematical sequence we decided to use. And I’ve done multiple iterations of random number testing to determine how the random nature of the prompts would work, as well as tracing possible narrative lines through those tests. I’ve become a bit of a nerd!
RV: I think it’s scary, to be honest with you, because it is entirely unconventional and unpredictable. There is great comfort in the traditional story frame, or the hero’s journey, where we (as artists) ask ourselves, “Okay- What would be a good way for our protag to cross over from the ordinary world and into Act II?” I think these things might be happening, structurally, anyway, but we can’t think like that when we have no control over the narrative direction.
Turning over the second major section of the story to a third party to provide random prompts is the very epitome of a Trust Fall. You have to be willing to really embrace the “What If?” mantra and realize that what is on the other side of this story is wholly unknown.
While this is scary, this is incredibly essential to strengthen our skills as writers and creatives. It’s so easy to write formulaic fiction (and I certainly still do this in other works I create), but taking this ultimate Trust Fall helps us to be better, even with the more predictable stuff. It gives us the confidence to step out of our comfort zone and write a little more dangerously, which is what I think this generation of readers is really looking for anyway.
What can you tell us about your characters at this point?
JC: My focus character is Will, former uni student, in his early 20’s who is something of the product of the losses he’s suffered. His Dad, a semi-famous novelist and poet, is AWOL leaving his mother to languish in abject poverty, awaiting his return. He’s lost his best friend to suicide and two months earlier, his girlfriend in a horrific murder. Will wants a better life, and for a while he thought he had it. But inside he’s perpetually on the run. What from, I’m not sure. Perhaps the guilt of what he thinks he’s done (or not done). More possibly, an inability to find peace with his regrets and face the parts of himself he doesn’t really like. I guess the question is, like many of us, is Will strong enough to face his most vulnerable aspects, face his regrets, and come out of it a better person.
RV: Wainwright is a pre-middle-aged guy who carries with him his own regrets, like anybody else. He has his small group of friends (most of whom know very little about his past), and he spends a little too much time living in the past. He lives life cautiously, and usually for the sake of others, and tries not to get too involved with anything that might shift his daily routine of work, time with friends, a little late-night tv, and sleep.
Wainwright finds himself in the middle of an experiment that he never asked to join. Once he is involved, though, he is intrigued by the possibilities of how the outcome might change his past — and he hopes his present — in ways previously imagined.