Monday, May 09, 2011

This House Holds Secrets

Everyday when I take my kids to school I pass a house. To me it epitomizes the classic American house. Its the kind of house I fantasize coming home to as a child. There is probably always a fresh pot of coffee on and a pie cooling in the window. Crocheted doilies created by a long-dead grandmother cover end tables. Wedding and baby pictures decorate the walls. Its a Norman Rockwell painting come to life.
I think it hides the gates to Hell.
Its not that I'm subversive or have the strong desire to rip off the patina of suburban living to show the rot beneath. I'm not making a social statement; I'm not that deep. But I do love to imagine something dark and dangerous living in the middle of perfection. I like the edge of terror such images evoke. I think it also helps the reader get pulled into the story. If the scene is one they can imagine on their own, have a familiarity with, it brings them into the action quicker than if they have to structure the scene from scratch in their minds.
Sticking with a familiar world helps me with writing. I'm more of an action writer, the hallmark of my writing is usually a scene of violence to open the novel. I like to write action and dialogue. If I have to build a world from scratch I get discouraged. I worked on a steampunk novel and while building a world of airships and fantastical steam gadgets dressed up in Victoriana was interesting and fun, it was work. It felt ponderous for me. It held me back from the strengths of what I like to write.
But world building is necessary. I have abandoned a couple of authors I used to read because they didn't flesh out their world enough and stuck to pure action. Constant action with no tangible scenery becomes confusing and boring. Finding the right balance is tough. So I look to the familiar as a shortcut. Any modern tale I write is going to take place in California. It minimizes the research required. I also have enough familiarity with my home state to create a fictional town which still retains a sense of authenticity. Dean Koontz is good at this. He will create a fictional town but I can immediately get a sense of what and where the town is. I also like suburban settings because most of us have a sense of what suburbia is. It really doesn't matter the state and in some instances, the country.
Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses when they write. There is nothing wrong with finding shortcuts to make your writing easier. Looking to the familiar to find inspiration and even cornerstones to a scene is writing smart. If it helps a writer pull their readers in and give them a connection to the story its all good. So when trying to find where the body is hidden, where the spy hid the flash drive loaded with state secrets or where the gates to Hell are standing, try looking next door.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

....It's like Riding a Bike

Unfortunately, I've always been a bad bike rider. I dunno, when I was a kid I could ride a bike okay, I was never one for tricks or stunts. I enjoyed the basics, the feel of rushing through the air, my legs pumping to pick up speed, the freedom a bike gives a kid.

As an adult, well, bike riding takes too much focus. Its work. Insulated by youth, I never really worried about the cars around me when I was a child. Now, I'm constantly aware of the speeding vehicles and my own lack of skill on a two-wheeler. It takes all my concentration to remain balanced. The seat is uncomfortable and bike riding hurts my back (I fell down a flight of stairs in college and add childbirth to it, my back isn't the best).

So where am I going with this besides the observation that I should be kept away from anything with the word "Schwinn" on it? Writing works the same way for me. If you asked me to ride a bike from point "A" to point "B" I could do it. It would be ugly and I wouldn't enjoy it, but I could make it. If I did this everyday, I would get better. My balance would improve. I'd find a way to ride where my back wasn't achy. Eventually I'd go further and enjoy it.

Once you learn to ride a bike, the basics of it are pretty programmed in. You don't forget. For me writing is the same way. Tell me to write something and I can do it. I can get to point "A" to point "B." It might be ugly and I may not like it. But it would get done. If I write everyday, I will get better and would eventually start to enjoy it again.

For me, its getting the motivation to even try. How much do I really want to do this? Why do I want to start writing again? Is it worth the effort? I think I have to remember the rush of when I was writing everyday and working on a project. I have to remember the wild abandon I felt putting words together. I have to go back and recapture the feelings I felt much like when I was a kid riding a bike.

Like anything worth accomplishing, it takes practice. It takes work and it isn't always fun. As Susan and Toni its going to take some writing garbage first. And I think the blogging helps. I do believe the writing will come back and be as good or better than ever. Sadly, I don't think the same can be said for bike riding. Think I will stick to my car.

Monday, March 07, 2011

At a Loss for Words....

I'm literally at a loss for words. They have deserted me. Every thing I write is a struggle. From a simple email to a Facebook status, I'm faced with a blank screen and a blank mind to go with it. I open a document and the words scatter like cockroaches when you turn on a light. Last week I had a WIP open and I couldn't come up with a single word to push the story forward.

It's not writer's block. With writer's block I can see where I want to go, I can see my plot, my scenes, my characters, I just struggle with how to get it altogether. This is different. I have lost my vision. Story lines and characters have always come easy for me. Execution not always so. But now my mind is completely vacant when it comes to telling a story.

Disheartening? Yes, a writer who can't writer is an unhappy puppy. But mostly I'm angry. I'm furious that this has happened, that I've allowed this to happen. Yes, I do blame myself to some extent. I took a break. That's fine, but I should have made myself go back sooner. Like anything else, creativity must be nourished, it cannot be left to linger. Anything worth having, feeling, doing must be tended. If it is left to neglect, it withers.

I don't believe this vacuum is permanent. I've taken long hiatuses before. The writing comes back but it is much tougher than it should be.

So, my writer friends, what do you suggest I do to jump start my words and get me writing again?