Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Holidays

I haven't blogged in a bit here. I can blame it on the rain, or the lethargy after finishing NanoWriMo, but mostly it's because I haven't had anything to say regarding the craft. However, today, I do, and I present to you:

Social networking and the Writer.

I like going to the zoo. Who doesn't? The zoo has many critters behind fences, nets, and glass, and sometimes I come away from a zoo visit wondering really, who is being protected from whom. It's an interesting anthropological exercise also, going to the zoo. I watch the critters, and I watch the people who watch the critters, and I'm pretty sure that someone watches me but I can't catch them out of the corner of my eye when I spin around.

In a way, writing is like going to the zoo. I watch and then write from my experiences. But not my experiences really, more like the experiences that I imagine that the meerkats imagine that I have.

It's the holiday season now. There are office parties to go to. What that means is dressing up to go to the zoo. Only now the viewers and the viewees are separated by cocktail dresses and punchbowls. We eat, drink, and then try to leave before the dividing line gets too blurred and we end up howling with the rest.

And then, once the alcohol- and food-induced haze has faded, and I can once again remember my name and address, I will sit down and I will write.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

If Life Were A Romance Novel….

Reality stinks. It really stinks. You wake up in the morning and think about how much you don’t want to go to work. Then, you look at the ceiling and realize that if you want to keep the ceiling over your head, you have to go. Sigh. Next, you arrive at work and sit in a boring meeting or listen to your boss talk about things that give you heartburn for eight hours, working between interruptions. If you’re single, you go home to an empty house or a houseful of roommates that you would really like to avoid. If you’re married, you go home to a husband and his dirty socks or to your kids and their litany of complaints. See reality stinks. Ok, ok….this might not be an everyday experience, but it is one that happens way too often for most people’s comfort.

Life would be better if it were a romance novel.

Every girl would have a hero and a happily ever after. Money wouldn’t be an issue. Small business owners wouldn’t have to worry about payroll or health insurance for their employees. Good looking, protective, honorable, single CEOs would be all over the place like autumn leaves. Ranchers and farmers would always have plenty of money. Women would always look like a million bucks and if they didn’t, the good looking CEO wouldn’t care. Love and marriage means forever.

Life would be better if it were a romance novel….or would it?

Every girl would have a major problem. A malicious stalker. A kidnapped child. A business about to be taken over. A fiancĂ© who isn’t what he seems. An evil mother or sister that wants to cause problems. The world would be in constant peril from unseen forces, sometimes supernatural unseen forces. Every hero would have had a troubled childhood or been scarred forever by a woman. Yes, he has a successful career, but he doesn’t have anything that matters. He’s sworn off marriage, but he doesn’t really mean it. He’s just waiting for the right woman. Doesn’t that sound like a barrel of laughs for the poor unsuspecting heroine to deal with? Doesn’t she have enough problems with the malicious stalker, kidnapped child, failing business, and evil mother?

Suddenly, reality doesn’t seem to be quite that bad….

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Redecorating Your Brain

With the successful completion of yet another NaNoWriMo by all the members of the TriMu, I thought this entry would be appropriate. Someone recently asked me "How do you go about writing a story?" and you know if you ask a novelist a question like that, you get . . . well, you get a novel.


The idea flies into my brain. It's shiny and cool to the touch. It glows with an inner light that fascinates me. I find myself staring blankly at it while I should be doing real-world things like working or sleeping or driving.

The idea begins to redecorate my brain. It asks to be taken on a tour of my mind, so it can steal furniture from other rooms. It also likes to travel with me and steal from the rest of my life. Feeling insecure at work? Great! Let's put that in the character portraits. Listening to an interesting accent? That will go well in the conversation nook. Reading the story of Jacob's ladder to heaven? Fantastic! Let's make that into a lovely metaphor for the coffee table.

Soon the idea has filled its room in my brain so full we can't see each other through all the stuff. The idea suddenly discovers something. It is claustrophobic.

There is a frenzy to organize. We go through all the idea's junk, trying to find patterns in the piles and piles of objects it has collected. I try to take notes, to categorize, to plot out a diagram of the room as it should look. I write on post-its, 3x5 cards, spreadsheets, but the lists are just as messy as the room itself.

"That's it!" I say. "Let's just start working and see what happens."

The process moves slowly, and my friendly idea refuses to help. All it does is sit there looking sulky. It doesn't shine. It doesn't glow. Every day it begins to look more and more like the proverbial pebble in the proverbial shoe. I match feats with Psyche's mythic moving of the sand pile one grain at a time.

Finally I make the room appear a bit more like a room, and less like an overflowing storage unit. There are picture frames on the wall, empty, but on the wall. I place two mismatched chairs in the corner for a conversation nook. I find the coffee table--no metaphor, though. Where is that blasted metaphor?

Giving up seems like the best option. My brain's a disaster. That stupid idea stole all the best parts of me and jumbled them all up. The idea itself has lost all its luster. I wonder if it was ever shiny at all. The story room is worse than ever. At least the piles of junk held more potential than this. What a waste of time.

I leave the room. Pulling the door shut behind me, I say a soft goodbye to my idea. Then I see it. On the floor, by my shoe. My idea, all dull and tarnished, is carrying the metaphor. The idea holds the metaphor up to the light of the blinking fluorescent bulb. They melt together. They merge. The hallway fills with light as my idea shines again--brighter than before.

Smiling, I pick it up and go back into the room. We have work to do.