Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Am Writing: waiting to use that perfect, magical setting

It’s neat to be of the imaginative writerly ilk because I often think of myself as a piece of Velcro. The strangest things stick with me. Because they stick, I often keep them in a mental jar to be pulled out when needed. What I am inspired by may not necessarily winnow its way into my current scribbling project.
omgomgomgomgomgomgomg so purty

I knew somehow, somewhere, in some way since I was in grade 9 and first stepped in, that the Elgin and Winter Garden theatres would someday make their way into a fictional landscape of my crafting.

The Winter Garden is amazing and magical and romantic and breathtaking. I always jest that when people see it for the first time it elicits an immediate gasp of surprise and I am right. It is just one of the most lovely pockets in the great over-coat that is Toronto.

And with the ornate floral scenery of the Winter Garden tucked away, I saved it--- I saved it for something special. I scribbled and scribbled several books wherein the Winter Garden could play in. The main theatre in the building, the Elgin, and its gilt-edged proscenium arch and wrought-iron elevators and sheer Edwardian splendor were a wonderful place to creatively inhabit. But I never used it. I scribbled and wrote and scribbled knowing/hoping someday I would find a time to pull it out.

It would make the BEST spot for a romantic rendezvous or a meet-cute or one of those I know that You Know that You Love Me, I love You revelatory moments that make my fingertips all buzzy. It would make the best secret hideaway.

When I was white-boarding my lady detective novels I couldn’t get the Winter Garden out of my head. I was like: is this the story? Is this it? It fit. It worked. I plotted and played. But it wasn’t just working the setting it, it was deciding if the setting was worthy of the characters, fit them like a glove and vice versa.

It worked----


Except I had a teensy problem: the book I wrote was set before the Elgin and Winter Garden theatres opened. (they opened in 1913 by Mr. Loews, so I eventually catch up to it in my timeline) So, I sacrificed authenticity for creative license and le voila! Created my own double-decker theatres that are an absolute replica of the one of Toronto’s crowning architectural treasures. I don't do well at hiding it.  It is the most obvious descriptive comparison ever.

Then came the challenge of putting it in words. Stifling and pruning my wonderment of a place where the magnitude and scope of its singular brilliance can never quite be captured in writing:

“… slowly, clicking, buzzing, the theatre illuminated. A secret garden fairyland. Overhead a forest of plants, vines and leaves intertwined, the walls elaborately painted in woodland splendor, dried flowers hanging from the ceiling and ornamenting the wall sconces and lantern-holders. The colored lights specked the ceiling like rainbowed stars setting the beauty of the garland design incendiary”

So I relied on my loquacious hyper-sensationalized over-romanticism: “I held out my hand, deftly tracing the tender outline of a gold-embossed design on one of the pillars, sculpted like a tree, furrowing up to a painted night sky canvas at which the focal point was an embellished moon.”

Needless to say, research trips to steal into the crevices and backstage and up squeaky steps and over the fire-escape of this wonder-world were not hard for my die-hard romanticism to endure

The theatre became putty in my writerly hands and I cajoled and coaxed it into something that gave me giggles and elated glee.

Having used it --- knowing that it was there – I am currently in the process of parading it out again as I write book II in the series and keeping it in my heart’s eye for book III.

It is not going to be analogous to my Jem and Merinda series. I know I will use it again. But I am glad I saved it, this ornate gold-mine, because once I had it as my mental putty I teased it with such aplomb.

It fits my plaything character puppets and their world and their desires. And they fit in it like they belong there—as they do in all of Toronto, cozying into its furrowed old-sweater folds.

1 comment:

Amanda Dykes said...

This is STUNNING and your excerpt is STUNNING and I can't wait to read your books!!! (Also, your photo captions are the best thing ever.)