Missing email–apologies–and writing deep

Hey everybody out there–

In case  you have been trying to communicate to me through my website, I haven’t been able to receive it lately. Don’t know why–some glitch in the firmament–but I hope to have the issue settled soon. So, sorry. Keep trying, and I’ll eventually collect all those missing messages. Assuming there are any! And if you’re not sending them, send them!

I’m still working on my story. I came to a place in it yesterday that I wrote the day before and thought, no, this happens too fast, this shouldn’t happen yet. And if I leave it alone, I can’t go forward.

So I back-tracked a little bit, me who tries not to revise as I write the first draft–usually it’s full steam ahead no matter what! But there can be exceptions. If  you can’t go forward, then I guess you have to go deep. This is writing, not football, after all. Going deep–it’s sort of like sideways time, something I’ve often wished I could invent. Maybe that’s why I’m a writer, so I can invent sideways time. At least on paper.

Writing deeper into the story is like going into the heart of a stew where you know there’s one small cherry tomato, you’re pretty sure, anyway, because you can taste the juice, and aha! there it is, the orangey red, the dark specks, the escaping seeds! You found it! But you have to write to find it. The discovery method!

So I took that writing knife, and cut a gap between two paragraphs and meandered a little. And guess what, it’s better. The story’s flowing again, there’s more character development, and the story line is sharper. And that part that I pushed further off? I deleted it. It felt good. Nothing wrong with a little meandering.

So I’m going back to work now, hoping to find more cherry tomatoes, garbanzo beans, and maybe a little bit of pie in the sky.

Thanks for checking in!

By authorsusanshaw

Writing stories: How do you get from here to there? Don’t miss those cues!

January fifteenth, and boy, is it cold outside! It snowed overnight, leaving a dusting on my front walk. That’s just the warning shot. I’m trying to remember that warning shots don’t always have follow-ups. But this is Pennsylvania, and this is January, and I think it’s more than a warning shot. It’s a promise.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how stories are written. How do you go from point A to point B? How do you get there from here? I’ve done it, so I should know, right? So, I’ve been a fly on my own wall, watching what I’m doing as I’m doing it. It’s so easy to miss your own cues. But what I’m thinking is that writing a story is something like driving a car. All those roads you pass, all those intersections, all those opportunities for diversion. Mostly, we don’t take them, and if all you’re trying to do is get home before the ice cream melts, that’s good. Sometimes it’s good to take the side roads, though, see what’s there, see who’s selling hot lemonade today, see who’s giving out gold doubloons. It could change your life. And what’s a little melted ice cream?

If you’re writing a story . . .

For instance, I was writing a scene in which a fifteen-year-old boy in a school lunchroom gets hit on the face with a roll. There’s jam on the roll, so now there’s jam on the boy’s face. He leaves the lunchroom, and a girl follows with a sandwich to give him. Gives him the sandwich and returns to the lunchroom (don’t worry, there is logic here), and the boy goes on, away from the lunchroom, with the roll and the sandwich.  And I wrote some more before stopping for the day.

The next morning, I thought about this scene, and I thought, Hey! A girl and a boy together, the boy with jam on his face. What’s the logical thing here that you aren’t doing? The girl needs to wipe the jelly off the boy’s face. How flirtatious is that? And the cue, the side road, is right there. As my grandmother used to say, if it had been a bear, it would have bit me.

But first time around, I missed that, a cue I’d put in there myself. True, the girl didn’t have to wipe the jelly off the boy’s face, but when an actor’s given a cue, he needs to do SOMETHING. In a story, you can’t have a pot of soup on the stove and a cat wandering the shelf over it and a hero staring out the window and not use the set-up. It’s obvious. The reader’s looking at it and saying, what’s going to happen with this soup, with this cat, with this person? You can’t just have the cat take a nap, the soup get eaten, and the character move to New Jersey, the end. Well, you can, but why were those cues there if you weren’t going to answer them?

So, to my loyal readers out there, if you’re writing a story, what cues have you written that you’ve driven blithely on by? Take those cues and let the girl make the boy nervous while she wipes his face. And then what? And then what? Take those cues, and you’ll see the ideas spin like wisps of cotton candy.

On to the cotton candy!

By authorsusanshaw

New Projects and New Ideas and the Snoopy Effect

It’s January fifth already, and the holiday season feels almost like a mirage. Busy and colorful, and fast disappearing behind the bends in the river. Always good to look forward.

I’ve been working on a new project that is going well. Can’t talk about it yet–my projects are like the helium in balloons when it’s early days. Talking about them pricks the balloons, and the stories escape into the ether, and they cannot be gathered back. But I do have a story going that I’ve liked for more than two days running, which is kind of a record lately. Maybe the Christmas break recharged my batteries. Too bad you can’t do that the way you recharge cell phones. Just plug in, and after an hour, we’re all set for the next story. Well, we’re not machines.

I was talking with one of my friends the other day, one I talk to maybe once a month. We get caught up with each other during those conversations, exchanging truncated versions of our most recent experiences, and I got to thinking that by this time, my friend, with her somewhat detached perspective, must know what the next chapter of my life might be, based on all the things that have led up to where we all stand now. I suggested she write the next chapter and see if it matches up with what really happens. After all, just like in fiction, people behave in character. One thing leads to another, and we all act and react in character, even when we think we don’t–because we really can’t do anything else–and then we’re onto the next chapter in our lives. All very predictable, right?

Except for that thing I call the Snoopy effect. Charlie Brown never expects a caped and goggled Snoopy to fly into the sandbox, knocking everybody else head over heels, while pursuing the Red Baron.

So, that’s what I’m thinking. All stories, just like in reality, have their Snoopys and Red Barons who swoop down out of the sky and knock people over as they go about their lives. We’ll see what kind of Snoopy effects my new story produces.  But boy! No wonder I so often feel like my life is a cartoon strip!

Thanks for visiting! I’ll be back before too long!

By authorsusanshaw