Thursday, September 5, 2013
A Glimpse Behind the Curtain
In my quest to become a professional writer, I make it a point to write something every day. I aim for pages. On good days I get chapters. Some days the “something” is only a couple of lines. As long as words make it onto paper or screen, I consider the effort a success.
As in every plan, there are glitches. I may find myself between WIPs, or my ideas dead in the water, but I still need to write something. To cover these dry times, I’ve set aside a notebook where I just write freestyle for five or ten or fifteen minutes or however long I feel like it. I usually produce at least half a page, sometimes more if I get rolling.
Whether or not it’s a useable page is something else again.
What do I write? Whatever pours out of me. Sometimes it’s a scene, or a character sketch. Usually it’s dialogue. I love dialogue. I don’t know why I bother with novels because my narrative descriptions are sketchy at best and sucky at worst. I’d rather have people talking. I should be writing screenplays or TV scripts or something.
Even if it’s junk, it does satisfy my self-imposed obligation to write at least something every day. I set that goal back in July of 2006 and haven’t missed a day yet. If I’m really lucky, I turn up a nugget that leads to a story or book. One of these scribbles, about a man who’d been raised by vampires (the scene, in dialogue, had him being interviewed by the local news) sparked my novel Belonging. I have whole notebooks of beginnings, middles, snatches and endings that could someday turn into something.
Most of the time, however, I come up with things like this:
“I hate you!” she blasted. “I wish you were dead.”
“And I’m sick to death of your said bookisms. This is the end of the line.”
“My what?” she quavered.
“Those descriptive words that follow your dialogue. You always roar or blast or spit or shriek or whatever. You never just say anything. It gets damned annoying after, oh, about five minutes.”
“What do you mean?” she demanded.
“There! You just did it again!”
“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about,” she sniffed.
“Oh God, are you kidding me? Nobody can ‘sniff’ a line of dialogue. You can say it with a sniff, but you can’t sniff words. Try it.”
“I hate you!” she cried. “Go away!”
“Only if you say something normally. I want to see if you can. Go on. Say something. Like, ‘The sky is blue.’ No modifiers. Just speak the words.”
She hesitated, took a deep breath, and burst out, “The sky is blue!”
“Nope, sorry, you burst that one.”
“How about if I sing it?” she suggested.
“Only if we’re in a Disney movie. Go on. Try to say something.”
“Um … I have a headache,” she moaned. “No good?”
“Getting better. Try again.”
“Okay. Okay. Uh—oh, this is so hard!” she wailed.
He shook his head. “I swear to God, you grew up in a pulp magazine.”
“You beast! I could just pound your head in!”
“Wait, I think you’ve got it. I think we’re right on the verge here—”
“Really?” she beamed.
“Oops, lost it. And you were so close!”
“Oh, to hell with this,” she scowled. “Let’s just have sex. I know all sorts of good words for that.”
“I’ll bet you do, you little vixen. To the bedroom!”
Yeah, I know. Not exactly Tolstoy. Not even Tolkien. But it made for an acceptable blog. And now that I’ve got this out of the way, I can go ahead and write words that make more sense when you string them together. This is how writers live their lives. I should have gone into accounting.