Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Big Push

By Martha Reed

I love three day weekends mainly because if I organize them properly it can seem like I squeeze two Saturdays out of them and that means I get my weekday chores out of the way leaving me a big glorious chunk of time for creative writing. I’m in a very active writing phase right now because I’m within the last fifty pages of my new novel, I know where I’m going and I just have to get it there.

Yes, I use outlining – it’s another one of the tools in my writers’ kit – but the best part is even at this late stage of the game when I think I know everything that’s going to happen my characters can still throw me a curveball. For instance, at around 10AM yesterday one of my characters was supposed to pass by a table out on the patio and drop a sassy comment and to my surprise she pulled out a chair, sat herself down and poured out a glass of champagne.

I immediately inserted a page break in my manuscript and started a wholly unexpected new chapter since I was ten pages into the previous one, that’s about my average length and evidently Sally has something she’d like to say. I’ll be honest with you – I’m as mystified as anyone by her action and I can’t wait to hear what she has to divulge. She’s got me so curious I even brewed up a second pot of coffee with dinner in the hope I could get a second caffeinated burst of inspiration but in my heart of hearts I know that what Sally’s about to drop on me is so good I should wait until next Saturday – my next big block of unbroken time – to hear her out with my full attention. I believe her revelation will be that good.

Now the question I get from readers and my fans is: where do you get this stuff? I admit I’ve been blessed with a wide and varied lifetime full of experiences and most of them were self-inflicted. I’m pretty sure there are people out there who can craft perfect little gemstone stories from events that occurred within four homebound walls but I am not one of them. I love range and scope and throwing a whole mess of unrelated characters together to see what happens. How I get to imagine how they’ll react is a large part of the fun for me and once again begs the question: if I don’t know what’s going to happen next – as the author - then where does the genesis come from?

Let’s put it to the ethersphere. Any ideas?


Annette said...

This is one of those topics we need to use caution around. Because if "normal" people hear us talking about the voices inside our heads, they're likely to call the guys in white coats and a padded truck to haul us away.

But for me it is a little like multiple personalities coming out of my psyche and having their way with me.

I recently heard someone say that we writers feed off the very thing that most people spend thousands of dollars trying to get rid of.

Martha Reed said...

Annette, I agree, and I wonder how many potential writers shy away from the act because they're afraid of what they 'hear' or they've been conditioned to think using their imagination actively like that is wrong.

Since its so powerful I can see how some folks are frightened away from it but I wonder what the world might be like if we made a concerted effort to train children with this gift to use it instead of letting them try to learn the ropes themselves. I certainly always knew I was a writer but no adult I knew coming up knew what to do with me or how to help. Journalism school was a nice guess but missed the true mark.

Oh, well! I got here anyway in the end. Thanks for the post.

Joyce said...

I'm pretty sure I inherited those "voices." My mother wrote a lot when she was young, and if she hadn't died when I was 19, I'm sure we'd have a lot to talk about now.

I had an imaginary friend when I was two years old, so my fantasy world started at a very young age.

I think too many parents stifle their children's creativity. Instead of telling them to quit dreaming, we should hand them paper and a pencil, or if they're too young for that, have them dictate the story to us. And I don't care how busy some people think they are, they should never be too busy to read to their kids.

martha reed said...

I can still remember my all time favorite book: Harold and the Purple Crayon. Talk about memorizing something! I hope kids these day are getting the same experience.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

I think that's one of the things that defines a good writer. Like a good actor, a good writer must be able to immerse themselves in the role they're writing from and let the reader "feel" that closeness.

Writing 3rd person, you have to take on different persona's. If I'm able to make a female protag and a middle eastern antagonist feel real to a reader, them I feel like I've suceeded.

queenofmean said...

As far as creativity goes, I think the least amount of interference the better. My son has been great at free-hand drawing since he was little. He wanted to go to this local art school when he was around 10 so we enrolled him. The problem was the instructors wanted to teach him to draw by the book. You start with the little circles that become the arms,legs & head, etc. I'm sure you've seen them if you've looked at any drawing books. His mind didn't work that way. He finally got one instructor who put up the finished picture on display for him to draw while the others in the class did the drawing by the book. She understood that you can't force creativity into a little box.
Once I've created my characters, I kind of just go by how they would react to any given situation. I might have a plan in mind, but then I realize that one or more of my characters aren't going to go along with the plan so I need to make changes. I guess it does sound crazy to someone who doesn't write, who doesn't know what makes the characters tick.

Martha Reed said...

Your son was lucky he found such an understanding teacher. I've had my share but everyone always tried to define creativity for me instead of trying it. It is complicated, and hard to explain but I can't imagine surviving without my imagination.

Judy Alter said...

The great Texas novelist, Elmer Kelton, whom we lost just two weeks ago, used to say his characters told him where the story was going and often surprised him. I've heard many authors say that and found it true in my own writing. The best advice I ever heard is, "Listen to your characters."