Monday, October 05, 2009

Latest Writing Tasks

Hey, folks. Some progress is being made in the writing. The daily journals have kind of stalled a bit. I've had a number of weeks of alternately being sick with some bug or with fall molds and possible allergies. Plus I've been getting stressed over the transition at work from contract to permanent, since they kind of low-balled my salary. In almost 15 years in the field of technology, nearly 10 of it being as a programmer, I have never actually had a problem with the lack of a degree. My resume is strong enough to earn very good salaries. But my parent company has decided to hold me to a salary cap, and as a result I am actually getting a tiny pay CUT for the honor of working here permanently.

But I'm not too worried about it. The folks in the local office were not in support of this cap at all, and they unilaterally managed to get a generous singing bonus for me, and this in combination with a refinanced mortgage on my home will result in the freeing up of a fair bit of cash, which will help toward getting me out of debt (credit card debt) at last.

The other major distraction to writing has been the play that I just got done performing: The Diary of Anne Frank. I just didn't have enough hours in the day to eat, sleep, rehearse, work and write.


Or at least that's what I tell myself.

Fact is, there is still something that is keeping me from freely writing and polishing my stories. They are stuck in my head and are rarely committed to paper. Somehow I have this drive, passion, near obsession with getting my stories down, but that white page is still more frightening than anything else out there.

My latest creative effort, for instance, was this not-even-a-haiku blurb I wrote last night:

Blank page, still you taunt me.


I'll take it, though. It speaks more clearly to where my head is than anything else.

It's not to say that I haven't made any progress at all. The fact that I have allowed writing to re-enter my daily world of thoughts means that I am re-introducing the types of things I used to have around me. Notebooks, pens, books on the writing process, books of art. I am making great friendships with writers and painters and photographers. I am spending time listening to tipsy friends play on drums around a camp fire. I am spending time with actors and directors and doing, doing doing and playing, and I am awakening my artist, teasing, feeding, playing and laughing and singing and crying and dancing. And playing with my cat whenever I get the chance.

So I wanted to take this opportunity to share this with you, and to share one of the resources that has sort of unlocked my thinking a bit. Since my drive for my stories has always been the "neat-o" factor, sometimes I find myself struggling over the silliest of things. Things like character development, conflict, pacing, these things are often where I get stuck, because what got me to reflexively pull the pen out was some simple twisted idea that was all by itself an idea I would love to see on paper.

So I happened to stumble on a great book which has served as a great thought generator for me. It's called "Story Structure Architect", by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Pd.D., and it isn't one of those dry books on how to make your story boring and dry so only a critic could love it.

Instead, I have found it to be a great idea generator, a questionizer, designed to be opened at any random page, perused, bent, folded, spindled and mutilated until the moment that you suddenly read a page and ask yourself: "Wait a second! That there describes my story. This situation is the category that I have been trying to work out, and here's why I'm getting stuck. I never really asked myself WHY character X is so obsessed over character B." Or: "Oh yeah, this describes Zeb, all right. But really, why haven't I had him look at his situation and complain? I've missed a completely important element of his struggle, here!"

I am finding it is very useful as a pocket tour guide into my stories. After I have an idea that is fairly fleshed out, but isn't quite clicking into place as a compelling experience, this book is allowing me to ride the trolley car down my story's streets and look at the significant places and wonder, from the point of view of these chapters, if I have considered how each element could be made more relevant when cast in this light.

Is it a love story? Is it an action-adventure (Roller Coaster)? One of my stories, I came to realize, fits well under the "Supplicant" structure. The supplicant structure deals with three characters at its core. The supplicant (the person with life happening out of her control, seeking help from outside), the persecutor (that person who interferes by invoking fear by use of some power) and the power in authority (that character that has the ability to solve or torment simply by interfering to help, or by withholding that help).

Did I intend to write the story this way? No.

The story was of an artist who is so obsessed with his emotional demons that he imbues life into his artistic creations and ultimately becomes a victim of his own creations as they trap him and attempt to subdue him as a permanent source of life for them all.

But by casting the story in light of this notion of the Supplicant, I began to wonder if I had suitably considered whether Ian, my main character, was even fighting back enough? Shouldn't he at some point feel compelled to want to be free? See, I hadn't considered this in my earlier drafts of the story. And the story became dull and uninteresting because of it.

I am looking forward to seeing how this and many other stories might evolve further due to resources like this book. These tools strike the right balance between the bad extreme of having a formulaic book and the opposite extreme of having a story that just isn't interesting to read.

1 comment:

ikildjennie said...

Write, write it all...write shit, write beauty, write what you think is shit, vomit on the page until it becomes nothing to fear...I admire your excited journey into becoming need nobody to validate your voice, it is valid in its own right.