Don’t know any other way

Being a writer is an endless study in human transition and lessons learned or forgotten or misapplied —Sloane Crosley

Being a writer is also realizing that the endless study in human transition can and does include the writer him/herself. That one’s own lessons learned, forgotten or misapplied, factor into one’s storytelling and the stories one wants to tell.

The stories I plan to tell will not make everyone happy. For those who like stories that are made of sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice, they can walk their asses right out the fucking door. Nothing I have to offer is made of sugar. I inhabit the realm of the salty, the tart, the bittersweet (emphasis on bitter, perhaps) and the uncomfortably hot. All that, yet still uniquely flavourful. Well, that’s what I believe anyway.

For the first time in quite awhile, I spent a good chunk of the weekend with my characters, my two boys. In many ways, the time together didn’t seem to suffer from a life that had kept me away from them since February. We carved out moments where we made a little time for each other. Never once did they disappear from me. They were and always have been close by. Never far from the reality of my life. Biding their time, and occasionally shaking their fists and even brandishing a weapon to use against anyone, real or fictional, who seemed to be in a threatening position to take me away from them.

It’s not surprising that other characters who might want me to tell their stories, have kept their distance from me because of the boys’ feral-like attitude to strangers and folks they don’t like. And there is a small list of folks they don’t like. Fortunately, none of them are the fictional characters I plan to work with in the future. So, yeah, the boys have gotten a bit better at allowing those folks to come closer. At least, close enough that I can hear them if they raise their voices.

Have I mentioned in previous posts that they are fiercely protective and possessive of me and what the three of us have together? I believe I have.

Most importantly, my boys love me. I don’t know why but they do. The fierce feelings are mutual.

In many ways, my boys are a blend of lessons learned, forgotten and misapplied not only in my own life but in those around me and what I see in the world. It’s more of a world view, I suppose, but the personal is very much in play.

In other ways, my boys are more than any word I could use to describe their presence and meaning to me. They are more than the ink that will form the vocabulary I will use to tell their story. We have a hold on each other. It is a powerful feeling to experience. It is tangible and intangible but undeniably visceral.

It’s bliss to be working on my writing projects again. Everything that goes into working on it, is familiar and warm. It’s something I fall into effortlessly without much thought. It’s also something I have been craving for a long time.

I think it has everything to do with the boys. They make it so easy for me to fall in with them, to let them take my hands and have them show me what they want me to know. It hasn’t been easy having them wait for me. Sometimes it hasn’t been easy getting them to co-operate when they’ve had their petulant moments.

Yes, we occasionally struggle and fight each other. But it’s only because we’re fighting for each other. This is what happens when we’re protective and possessive of each other.

My boys don’t know any other way. And that’s ok. Because when I’m with them, I don’t know any other way, either.

The enchanting monsters

The artist must bow to the monster of his own imagination — Richard Wright

Last Friday night, looking over my outline for my current writing project (i.e. second novel), I came to the conclusion that the outline is complete. For now, that is. I say that since anything can happen from the time I resume working on the novel to the moment I believe the story is finished.

I decided awhile ago, after having written the rough draft of the novel’s first act, I needed to stop and nail down the second and third acts. I knew what I wanted but I needed to put it down on file cards to see something tangible and moved them around like building blocks. I didn’t want to start writing again until the complete blueprint was laid out in front of me.

Well, I have the blueprint. Yay. Now to steal a couple of hours (or more) a day to spend time with my characters. Preferably in full throttle. Ok, maybe not full throttle all the time. Maybe we can intersperse that with a jaunty but sorta slow run. I think we can manage that. Maybe.

Anyway, I’m excited regardless of what speed me and my boys willing be traveling. Naturally, I’m going to go through the first act again because I’ve made a slight but significant change to the main female character. That requires me going into the first act to alter a few things. And I can’t wait to see how she will pop off the screen/page once I’ve made the change. Her changes will affect my boys significantly. This is going to be interesting. And in a slightly sadistic/masochistic kind of way, it’s going to be fun.

My boys and my badass gal are more than ready to show me how they intend to roll. They’ve been so good about the fact my life has been crazy since February. Didn’t think they had this much patience for me. But they do and I’m pleased they haven’t wandered away from me. They’re sticking with me. And that says a lot.

That being said, I’m rubbing my hands together in great anticipation. They are the enchanting monsters of my imagination. And I am ready to meet them head on and run with them again.

The continuation of my adventures with them awaits.

Movie snacks, socks and stories to tell

Last week, I managed to find some time to watch four feature films. I didn’t watch them in the theatre, although, there is one I plan on grabbing some hot buttered popcorn for.

Watching movies at home is great. You don’t have to buy overpriced drinks and popcorn or nachos. Settling in with a gin and tonic or a tumbler of whiskey sounds like a good idea. But I do think having whiskey during movie night depends on what movie you’re planning on watching. I have yet to figure out kind of movie would be appropriate with the hard stuff.

However, I can think of a couple of actors who would go well with a shot or two of Lagavulin or Macallan. My mouth waters at the thought. Considering I haven’t found the right movie that goes with a good whiskey, I defaulted to a good herbal tea for the four films. Yes, that’s boring. No, I don’t care. Just know that when I bring out the whiskey, it will be for something special, something unique.

As for in-home movie snacks, I guess I could make my own popcorn. Unfortunately, I don’t have a popcorn popper. I could use one of my stainless steel pots to make the popcorn but then, I’d set off the smoke alarm and ruin a perfectly good pot. Not really interested in a hot air popcorn popper even though it’s considered the healthy alternative to using hot oil. And I’m ambivalent about microwaved popcorn.

Since I refuse to put in the work to make good theatre-worthy popcorn, snacks of choice would be mixed nuts or rice cakes with almond butter. That might be a little too healthy for some folks but that’s how my tastebuds roll. I had the rice cakes.

Screenwriting is always about what people say
or do, whereas good writing is about
a thought process or an abstract image
or an internal monologue, none of which
works on screen
— David Nicholls

Now that the discussion of in-home movie snacks has been dealt with, I’d like to say watching the four films was the first time I was consciously aware I was viewing the films as more than just as a person looking to be entertained by what was on the screen.

To be more specific, I was looking at lighting, the choice of camera angles and the type of camera shot. I practiced figuring out within the three-act story arc where act two and act three started. Not sure if I was all the successful. Yeah, I was getting nerdy.

Call it research. Call it learning. Call it absorbing everything like a sponge and reflecting on it.

And before I started watching the third film, I came up with another idea for another novel. Let’s just say the idea was inspired by one of the first two films I watched. A re-imagining, perhaps. Maybe more like a deconstruction? Anyway, it probably won’t look anything like the source of the inspiration after I’m done figuring out the characters and fine-tuning the storyline.

Considering I have two writing projects I need to focus on, coming up with another future project seems a little ambitious and is begging for trouble when it comes to time management. It’s probably safe to say that for a lot of writers, coming up with several story ideas that have enough traction to become novels or screenplays is something to relish and be grateful for. It offers the choice to work on a couple of ideas simultaneously or one by one — finish one project and start on the next.

When I started writing, I didn’t know if I had a story worthy of becoming a book inside me. Then, after I wrote The Raven Sonata, I didn’t know if there was another story tucked inside me that I could sink my teeth into. To continue to hone, to stretch and push, and to get more ambitious with my storytelling skillset.

It turns out I have more than one story to tell. It’s not like I have a ton of stories dying to be told. I have no idea how many stories I have and how many of them will end up on paper. And I don’t think I’m too concerned about that right now. Nevertheless, I’m surprised. Surprised that I like being a storyteller. Surprised that I’ve found the one thing that allows me to express myself in a way where I simply couldn’t give a fuck what anyone else says. And I’ll never stop being surprised by the tiny pile of story ideas I’ve acquired, all with not-fully developed characters, waiting to play with me.

I know I’m becoming more ambitious with the stories I want to tell. Being more ambitious requires figuring out how to execute those lofty goals a person has set for oneself. That’s where I am now. Complexity and simplicity have been ubiquitous qualities that have shaped all aspects of my life. So, why wouldn’t I have that enter my writing. It’s a matter of allowing the complexity and simplicity to flow and express itself in the written word. It’s not an easy process but the journey has been rewarding, so far.

Although my focus is on the second novel and the short film screenplay, it doesn’t stop me from thinking about the most recent idea. It will remain an idea that will incubate and grow on its own. I estimate working on the story arc for this new idea won’t happen until late summer/early fall unless something changes and I find myself scratching notes on file cards sooner than later.

It’s always exciting to come up with new story ideas that immediately grab hold of your imagination. All fun and games until you realize you have to prioritize. Either I reel in my imagination or pull up my socks and manage my time so I can get this pile of stuff done…

I guess I’ll pull up my socks.