I had another one of my little epiphanies the other day—and I’ve been waiting for it for over a year. I was looking at some diagrams of triangles when a random idea popped in my head. So I wrote it down: “Take a triangle, for example. No matter what the degrees of each angle are, they’re always going to add up to 180.” And suddenly everything clicked.
Let me explain. If I had to briefly sum up my novel, it would be something like: boy fails math, gets tutor, they concoct an elaborate and twisted relationship. When I was first brainstorming, I just happened to choose math as the subject he was failing. Geometry, to be specific, just because that was the subject I took when I was fifteen. And ever since, I’ve been asking myself “Why?? Why did it have to be math?”
The thing is, I hate math. Sure, I was great at it in high school, even managed to get through Calculus. But then I went to a liberal arts college where we could waive math with a C average or an SAT score of 550. So I forgot all about it. Why, then, did my brain automatically turn to math? I didn’t know, so I just went with it, looking up random geometry equations to use and questioning whether or not it should be some other subject, like history or science (besides the fact that Biology or Chemistry would scream “Look at me, look at me, I’m a cliché!”).
I wanted something more. Some sort of symbolic reason for the math to be there. I had this feeling if I kept working at it, trying to figure things out, it would eventually make sense to me.
Then it slapped me in the face. The math had been there the entire time. The characters’ relationship was, and had always been, somewhat formulaic. I just had to look at it that way and make the narrative show it. Part of me had always known this was right before the rest of me could catch up. So like every other crazy idea, everything just sort of fell into place.
I guess I’m the sort of writer who doesn’t fight off the ideas, at least not the major ones. Sometimes I’ll write a scene and then look back and say, “What the hell was I thinking?” But even if I know the scene is complete crap, I don’t delete it. There was some reason for writing it—maybe I realized something about the characters in that scene, or figured out something that has to happen later on in the plot. There’s something there that I can look back on when I’m struggling with another scene.
It’s ok to write something that doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes you just have to go with that gut instinct. Maybe you’re not actually psychic, but there’s a reason for every idea you come up with. You’ll find a way to make them work for you.
For now, just write. Leave the questioning for later.