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the process of creative writing June 21, 2006

Posted by jeanne in Author's Note, Blog project, Characters, construction news, Creative Writing, Crime Fiction, original fiction, Plotting.
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I'm really enjoying putting this all up in public. It makes me think about the process, the 'and then do this' part of writing, and define what I know and what's just bullshit, so I can go back and study up on it before putting pen to paper,  

In this case there's no paper. It's all on a server, except for a little confused flowchart with a dozen strands – I couldn't figure out how to do that in Photoshop.  

Right now, even tho ostensibly I'm still learning how the blogging software works, I'm spending most of my day ruminating about the plot. 

The last time I wrote a book, see Splat, it started as a little germ of a thought – what if you let a girl with anger management issues roam the streets as a vigilante traffic cop, one who shoots first and never asks questions? Her vigilante costume may itch, but she's dead set on her mission. It's Atlanta traffic versus a girl with road rage and a paint gun. 

And when the idea for Splat came into consciousness, oh, a year and a half ago, it bubbled to the top and stayed there, and I would ruminate for hours on what my character was like and what she was going to get herself into when I started writing. 

And then I realized that the people around me were character illustrations of the first order, the kind of whacked out refugees from normality that makes for really great farce. So I started thinking about the back stories of these new people, working them into what had to happen to get my main character thru the story, whatever that would turn out to be.  

But suddenly I had a garage full of loveable pot-smoking mechanics. And I had a bunch of skateboarding slackers for roommates, and it was no great trick to remember what it was like when I worked in a big commercial kitchen. 

I had all the ingredients. Except a plot. A bunch of interesting characters, a basic idea of where I wanted to end up, and a good first paragraph: 

"Shit. I missed." 

So I let it bubble. Fermentation is a good thing when trying to remember dreams, insights, and story lines.  

When it came together it was because of a sand-like irritation that pushed my button. Fucking goddamn narrow-minded racist fucking sexist white supremacist good ol' boy asshole fucking men.  

Suddenly, I had my badguys, characters I could really sink my teeth into as I was setting them up to DIE.  

Passion. The cool thing about fiction is that you can air your true feelings on subjects normal people keep hidden. You call it fiction, and people don't back away at your approach. 

Except for some of my friends, who won't talk to me after having read Splat.  

Oh well.

 

Suddenly I had my story. She's a loser girl with a loser job in the kitchen of a rich white guy's country club, living with a bunch of loser roommates. Her boyfriend's a dishonest mechanic, and the assholes she works for are too much to bear.

 

I found myself with a bunch of threads -.the things that would be happening to all these different characters. And there was already an overall design that I was working with, so it was a matter of carefully weaving the threads together without making a muddled mess.

 

But hey, as I reached the finished first-draft weaving of threads, I realized that the characters were going to do things their way.

 

Then I had to sit there for awhile, and let the characters fight in the recesses of my mind as to what their motivations were and wouldn't it read better if we changed this little thing here.

 

And the problem, which was how to arrange everything so that when it fell down in the end it would make the biggest crash – it boiled and bubbled in the back of my mind, and every now and then I got a glimpse of how this particular issue had to resolve.

 

Several times I had to go with a solution that I knew had problems. But there was no better answer at hand, and I had to move on down the plot line. And always the issue would stay on my mind, and eventually I'd have a completely out of left field solution just hit me and make me giggle with delight.

 

Anyway, the same basic process seems to be happening again, with this new story, Construction News.

 

Right now, I've got some of the plot figured out. I've got situations that I don't know how bad they're going to get, or how integral they are to the story. And I play with what if this and that. And the pot continues to simmer.

 

And then a miracle will happen, and I'll have most of the plot structure in a flash. And it'll be the most delicious way I can think of to lift up the downtrodden and give the bad guys their comeuppance.

 

Just today I was thinking about the old lady with the trees in her back yard, how she repeatedly, calmly goes around sabotaging the construction project in every way she can, little and old tho she is. Could a case be made in court that she didn't know her cookies had some powerful shit in them? And her husband eggs her on. She digs the stream out, he holds the shovel and lets her work up her energy.

 

I find myself using the people around me as characters, again. And it's all because you just can't make this shit up. Hopefully my neighbors will continue to talk to me after this story becomes public.

 

I'll explain to them that the characters I write aren't them, and aren't meant to be like them. Maybe like their evil twin, or as if demented space clowns came down and took over their bodies and made them do all the twisted things I'm going to think up for them.

 

So the folks I'm going to put into this story will have much worse manners than my actual flesh and blood neighbors. They'll show their asses repeatedly, and they'll get theirs in the end.

 

This is basically a what if revenge fantasy, rather than straight crime fiction. A romp in a neighborhood's dirty linen, revealing the consequences of sniffing it.

 

So the real old couple aren't really that old, and the nice gay guy is really nice. The star crossed lovers don't actually live anywhere around here. The family next door is just an ordinary family, I guess, and Thing One and Thing Two don't really end up dying horrible deaths. In fact, in real life, nobody dies. Everything goes on just like it always does.

 

And I would never have these particular things happen to any of my neighbors, whom I value more highly than characters. There are a million ways to kill off a character. Neighbors are there as long as there's a neighborhood.  

I invite your comments. How do you come up with ideas for stories?

 

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