December 7, 2014 § 2 Comments
I spend most days creating characters out of words—which is pretty abstract.
Even more abstract are the words themselves, figments of the collective imagination of a set of symbols called the alphabet.
Each letter is translated to sound in the mind, but a letter also exists in its own right as a shape on the page, a shape with an attitude, a personality.
Take A for instance. A is confrontational. Note the wide stance, the arms crossed on the chest. A is adamant, stubborn and tough. Being a writer who struggles with confrontations I’d diffuse A’s anger by bringing B into the scene.
B is that bosomy older woman who will hug the mad right out of anyone, even a hot head like A.
C shows up in my stories a lot. Open, receptive, a good listener. Having C in a story allows the writer to turn exposition into dialogue making critics less likely to ding them for loading up on exposition and backstory.
D is that dandy who thinks he’s all-that—note the straight back and the thrown out chest. Writing D I’d like to give him a secret fear, something to make him, if not likable at least more human, but I have a hard time getting past the smell of his cologne. « Read the rest of this entry »
June 1, 2013 § 4 Comments
Even when things are random, we search for pattern, imposing order where there is none.
The idea that “things happen for a reason” is so much more reassuring than “things happen.”
As a writer of fiction I take this one step farther. I construct the pattern in which “things happen” so that everything “happens for a reason.” And as the God of that small world I supply those reasons.
A writer, like a runner, has to build the necessary muscles for the task, so I’ve filled notebooks with writing exercises. For one that I do regularly I grab a dictionary. Yes, the old-fashioned kind that feels heavy in your lap.
I open it and take a random stab at a word. Archaic, bland, or esoteric, I’m stuck with it. I continue to play the literary equivalent of pin the tail on the donkey until I have a noun, a verb, and an adjective (if I get a second of any one of them I throw it back).
November 29, 2012 § 10 Comments
It is an artifact from being a young mother who had to go from dead asleep to wide-awake in the moment when my baby drew that deep jagged breath and began to cry.
With no baby to run to in that wakeful moment, I begin to think. The world is dark and, aside from the quiet mantra of my husband’s steady breathing, almost silent. It offers few distractions.
Sometimes, I wake up, not to an empty brain, but to an idea.
The other night, I woke up to the clear picture of a workbook, the kind in which a kid might practice the loopy letter L. I could almost smell its grainy acidic pages. The wire spiral that held it together had the slightly crushed look of a notebook carried in a backpack.