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The thing that gets me a bout writer’s block is that I don’t stop having ideas. I’ll be sitting there, literally pounding the desk in frustration, and out of nowhere, The Brain will say something like, “What if Mel Gibson is possessed by a demon, and there’s a cadre of underground exorcists that go around driving out these weird behavior demons? What would it be like for a trainee priest? Does this explain Robert Downey Junior?” This thought is, for me at least, intriguing, and worthy of exploration, but what frustrates me is that these thoughts have nothing to do with what I’m “supposed to be writing.”
Right now, there is a serialized story I’m writing for this blog entitled “True Believer.” As you may recall, I published the first part last week. For the past three days, I’ve been toiling on the second part, which admittedly is laden with several key plot points of various degrees of intricacy, but still shouldn’t have balked me the way it has.As with all my stories, the writing process for me involves a very casual outline, firmest at the beginning and the end, and a vast, desert-like sandbox in between in which I may roam around and hope that manna falls from the sky while I do my condensed 40 years of wandering in the sands of inspiration. In short, I usually know the who, what and when, but I leave the how and why to the gods of writing, who can usually be coerced into delivering unto me a few dribs and drabs that eventually help me to cobble together a story.
I know what’s wrong, of course. I am aware that there are writers out there who start with a situation for most of their stories (although, let us hope, not THE Situation), and then populate it with the dramatis personae before letting events take their course. In my case, I usually have a flash of a character in a given circumstance, but the character is what I’m focused on. It’s never “A man loses his wife to alligators, and has to fight their king to get her back,” it’s always “Tommy Francisco, a man with a troubled past, haunted by his childhood brush with an alligator attack, has to wrestle both beast and himself as he wages a war to recover his abducted wife.” Never mind that alligators do not, as a rule, merely abduct humans for ransom, or that they probably aren’t willing to release said victims as the result of anything as organized as a wrestling match. The point is, these people show up, fully formed (or nearly so) in my head, demanding that I tell their stories. Occasionally, when I have a point to make or I’m having one of those unfortunate “Oh-ho, Claire you clever literary rake, this bit of prose is inspired indeed!” moments, I try to steer the characters in the direction I want them to go, instead of sort of trailing after them with my little memo pad and transcribing the action.
That’s usually when they turn around and slap me up side the head.
Most of the time, I acquiesce, because, hey, I wanna know what happens next too. I’m a curious girl. But when I’m being stubborn about how I want things to go, or I actually have the audacity to suggest that hey, maybe the writer knows what she’s talking about when it comes to pacing or continuity, then we come into direct conflict, and they sit down and shut up or get all mopey, and things grind to a halt. Apparently my weapon of choice, even against myself, is passive-aggressive balkiness.
So here we are, at a momentary impasse. However, since a write-a-thon isn’t much use to anyone without, y’know, ACTUAL WRITING, I have a feeling I’ll be seated around my mental campfire tonight, discussing terms with a certain alcalde and his tenderfoot deputy. A couple of others have arrived as well, and I get the distinct impression I’m outnumbered.