It all started with a concept I had a few years ago, which came to me in a rather off hand way: I wanted to write a story about a curandero, so essentially Don Alfonso already existed. Who is Don Alfonso? You’ll get to meet him once the novel I wrote during November’s NaNoWriMo challenge is complete.
I had absolutely no idea that National Novel Writing Month even existed; less so that it had already had twelve previous years of November writing challenges. I spotted a poster promoting National Novel Writing Month sitting on a book truck in the work room of the library where I work, and I was intrigued. I quickly scanned the NaNoWriMo.org website and the idea found a nice seeding area in my brain… it’s that same place where all the other stupid ideas I form are nurtured and grown. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was already working on a novel… but the NaNoWriMo rules said not to work on something you were already working on, and since they ran their challenge on the almighty honor system, well… I had no choice but to obey the rules.
So Don Alfonso came straight away into my mind again: this semi-discarded character whom I toyed around with back when I was thinking it was time to start writing again, but never really got around to it. I decided that I would create a loose plot around this character, and in considering the various approaches I had at my disposal, Don Alfonso found himself in the passenger seat and the focal character became a twelve year old boy named, Phillip. For better or worse I was armed for the writing challenge. I did a bit of research, but not very intensive research; I just needed some broad strokes to refresh my memory of the inner workings of the curandero, and I found a lot of interesting source material in the works of Eliseo Torres, Robert T. Trotter II & Juan Antonio Chavira, and Elizabeth De La Portilla… the rest came from childhood memories and imaginative fabrication – this is fiction, people – imagination is the name of the game.
What is a curandero? If you grew up where I did (or any number of places like it), you’d know the answer to that question. For those who do not know: a curandero is a Mexican folk healer. Curanderismo is a complex practice, and it incorporates physical, mental, and spiritual healing techniques; a curandero is healer in the traditional sense, meaning that they practice herbalism and massage and other physical healing techniques, but they are also counselors and spiritual advisers… and when the situation calls for it, they are spiritual warriors (more on that in a minute).
Curanderos heal just about anything and everything that ails you; everything from upset stomachs and sprains, to marital problems and money problems, to hexes and curses and bad luck, and ojo. If you’ve got a evil spirit working its mean-spirited crap on you, you can count on a good curandero to have your back – the curandero will take on the evil spirit and, often armed with only candles and an egg, will send the evil spirit packing. I can go on and on, really it’s complex just like I mentioned a bit ago. If you’re at all interested see the books by the authors I mentioned above – you’ll learn tons.
So that was it; I was brewing my idea and it was time to wait for November 1 to roll around and for the gate to open. I was ready to start writing and stop making excuses for not writing… it was the “30 days and night of literary abandon” tagline from the NaNoWriMo site that did it. I’m such a sucker…
Next: National Novel Writing Month Kick-Off and the Party in the Background…