Archive for September, 2010


September 17, 2010

A few weeks ago, I was really, really stuck while writing ANTSY FLOATS, and I couldn’t figure out why.  I tried all my usual tricks to get past “writer’s cliff” and nothing was working, so I decided to do something different.  I decided to have a conversation with my main character.  Seriously.  I sat down and began to write to Antsy, and then switched roles, and let Antsy respond.  It was amazing!  I figured out the problem, and Antsy helped me come up with the solution.   I thought you all might like to have a glimpse into the creative process, so here it is – My entire “conversation” with Antsy!

ME: “Antsy, talk to me. I’m dyin’ here. I got no clue what to write. Usually, you’re right there talking in my ear, telling me your story. But lately, It’s been like pulling teeth getting you to talk. What gives?”

ANTSY: “What do you want from me? You put me on this crazy nutso cruise ship. Yeah, it’s cool, but I’m out of my normal element. I’m too dazzled by the thing to do anything but be distracted. It’s fun for me, but not for anyone reading.”

ME: “So the problem is that there is no problem. There’s too much vacation going on, not enough story, not enough character.”

ANTSY: “Yeah. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go lie out in the sun.”

ME: “That’s boring. I can’t let you do that.”

ANTSY: “Try and stop me.”

ME: “Ok, so I gotta throw a whole lot of random stuff at you to keep your vacation from being a vacation.”

ANTSY: “Nope. That’ll make it episodic.”

ME: “Ok. Maybe one major thing. But I already have one major thing coming your way. Maybe I need to introduce it sooner.”

ANTSY: “Yeah, I know… but it’s not major enough to keep me from hanging at the pool– because really, a stowaway? Why would I even care?  Not my problem.”

ME: “Ok. So I’ll make it your problem, and make it your problem fast.

ANTSY:  How?

ME: “Mmm…Maybe she has something on you? You two are bound from the beginning by something, maybe something wrong that you did that can get you into trouble. Like….  I’ve got it!  You forged Howie’s passport to get him on the ship! That ties right into the theme of the story.

ANTSY: “Great.  Thanks for ruining my vacation. I hope you’re happy.”

ME: “I’m not ruining it. I’m turning into a valuable learning experience.”

ANTSY: “Yeah.  Which I need like a hole in the head.”

ME: “You do, because you need these life lessons.  I fully expect you to be mayor of New York someday, Antsy.”

ANTSY: “Why would I want so much grief?”

ME: “Ok. So part of the problem is solved. I still have to figure out how to move the story along. Right now, you’re about to board the boat. You saw, or at least you thought you saw, some guy fall from a balcony. But for some reason, the story just dies the second I get you on the ship.”

ANTSY: “Yeah, like I told you, I’m too dazzled by the experience to do anything useful. All I do is explore.”

ME: “Exploring a giant cruise ship is fun, right?”

ANTSY: “Yeah, but it doesn’t move the story forward or develop character. It becomes like that porch light brainless bugs fly around. A distraction. What you gotta do is make the porch light important, like maybe somehow you gotta turn the light off ‘cause it’s gonna set fire to the house.”

ME: “Wait a second. Distraction. The idea of distraction. Trappings — traps we fall into as human beings. We’re so dazzled by the glitter of our lives that we ignore the unpleasant things: poverty, sickness. All the things in the world we find so easy to ignore because of the porch light.”

ANTSY: “You lost me.”

ME: “Of course I did. That’s because you still need to learn the lesson. And you will by the end of the book.  Can I use the whole porch light metaphor?  I like it.

ANTSY: “Be my guest.”

ME “Ok, so the focus of exploring the ship isn’t to just describe it, it’s the point out the concept of distractions.  So what do you find? What happens during this search that makes it poignant? Ah! The answer’s right there. You’re on a search. Not just an exploration, but what are you searching for?”

ANTSY: “How should I know? The purser’s desk? The skating rink?”

ME: “No, no, no. It’s gotta be something almost legendary. Or maybe something that may not be on the ship but you want to find it, and you will find it when it climaxes, when you’re not even looking for it anymore. Think — what would be worth the effort?”

ANTSY: “The nuclear core?”

ME: “Naah, too sci-fi.”

ANTSY: “The movie theater? The bowling alley? The indoor pool, central park a pumpkin patch?”

ME: “Pumpkin patch?”

ANTSY: “I’m brainstorming here. Good ideas won’t come if you don’t let the bad ones come first.”

ME: “Why don’t we ask Howie.”

ANTSY: “Howie? What does he know?”

ME: “He’s generally absurd. I think he could come up with a perfect absurd thing to look for.”

ANTSY: “Fine. I’ll ask him… (long pause)… Howie says we should look for the laser cannons they built in to ward off modern day pirates.”

ME: “Really? I didn’t think Howie had an imagination.”

ANTSY: “Well, he doesn’t. He read it somewhere. He also says it may have to do with food or gold, he’s not sure yet. Or maybe it’s sports related. Hey, what if there’s a basketball court?”

ME: “Naah. Ships already have basketball courts. Something bigger?”

ANTSY: “Football field?”

ME: “Nah. Too hard to believe. It’s got to be borderline believable and really cool. I’d say wave pool, but the real ships already have those. So what doesn’t a ship already have  that would be hard to believe but believable enough to tweak the imagination?”

ANTSY: “Howie also says there’s a morgue where they keep all the people who croak in the previous cruise. Maybe I want to go there to see if the guy who fell off the balcony is there.”

ME: “Maybe it should tie into the themes of the story: poverty verses wealth, ignorance verses worldliness, is dishonesty and breaking the law ever justified?”

ANTSY: “Wait a second. Howie just told me something. It’s just a rumor. I don’t know if I believe it. Lemme whisper it to you.”

ME: “I’m listening…. (whisper whisper)… Yeah. Oh, that’s good!  Do you  think it’s true?”

ANTSY: “I don’t know, but I’d like to find out.  Of course it won’t be easy to find, but I’m going to go searching for it.”

ME: “Go for it!”   🙂