Monday, August 6, 2012

Trail Mix

I've been working on a short story. I keep wondering if it's a mental vacation, because the plot is fairly straightforward. But I'm hoping deeper emotions come through as a result of the fewer technical acrobatics.

I wasn't trying to take a new approach to writing, but with this piece I found myself gravitating to pen and paper, and I'm also writing in fragments instead of moving from beginning to end. This comes down, I'm sure, to me feeling more able to focus on smaller details as opposed to simply worrying about the story being coherent as a whole. I feel as if I've graduated from something!

Here are a few paragraphs (not necessarily in order), just because. I find that I'm still revising a lot, even with the pen and paper, so each of these paragraphs have been handwritten multiple times and are changing very quickly.

The story's called "1, 3, 2, 4."

The other couple lived on the same floor, only two doors away. During Toph’s early weeks alone in the new building, he occasionally passed them in the hall without eliciting so much as a smile from either one of them. They had a child, a blond-haired boy of four or five who trailed behind them with one hand gripping onto the pant leg of the father he most matched to physically. Toph figured it was parenthood that kept them so reclusive; then, of course, Leo arrived from London, and, as a couple, they became visible. The other men introduced themselves as Jimmy and Marcos, a carpenter and an accountant. Leo wasn’t even over his jetlag yet when Jimmy invited them over for dinner.

and

Leo tended to have that effect on people. In the first month of their relationship, Toph had introduced him to all of his close friends. They liked that Leo had a Ph.D. They liked his smile. They universally agreed that Leo was good for Toph—at forty-five he had played the field long enough.

and

Leo stormed out of their apartment the first time Toph insisted on watching a playoff game. He said that he wasn't mad, that he simply wanted to get away from the sound of the television. He was gone until well past dinnertime, claiming that he didn't know how long the games lasted. Toph pretended to read the newspaper while he listened to Leo rummaging around in the kitchen, finally deciding on a fried egg sandwich. The apartment filled with the smell of grease, and it was Toph who wordlessly stepped over to the window and opened it.

and

In London, Leo often befriended other couples, saying they made him feel more at ease in the foreign country. On any day of the week, Toph would return home from work and find a note on the door telling him to meet at a local pub, or at a new restaurant, or, occasionally, at an apartment, where Toph would find himself stepping into the home of someone he had never met before and awkwardly introducing himself. Leo was thoughtful enough never to bring anyone home without advanced warning. So, on the days when Toph wasn't feeling very social, he could easily stay in, take a bath, and tell Leo that his meetings had run so late that he didn't think he would be able to catch up with them when all was said and done.

What's Peanut eating? Feta cheese

17 comments:

  1. I sort of like that you're piecing it together and not worrying about The Whole Thing. I'm struggling with my next project and suffering, I think, for trying to wrap my mind around the whole, even though there are these smaller parts that are very interesting to me.

    I like the dynamics between this couple so far, and the obvious tension. And I really love the part about becoming visible as a couple, and the ways that sort of characterizes the two of them, at least from Toph's perspective.

    Good for Peanut. Tell him to steer clear of vegan "cheese".

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    1. Jennifer, That line about visibility is probably my favorite sentence out of everything I've written. Maybe I'll end up revising everything else. :)

      And I've had that vegan cheese. I also wasn't impressed. Too bad telling Peanut anything when it comes to eating doesn't really work.

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  2. I like all of this. I have more to say, but no time just now.

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    1. I had a meeting from 8:30-12:30 and after that I had 8 hours of work to do and only 4 hours in which to do it! Today is about as busy, too. Hurrah!

      I'm toying with the idea of writing the Haydn book out of order, since each chapter is written by a different character. The plot is really simple and straightforward, with all the real action being in how people talk about each other, so I think I could write it however I want. I sort of have an image of assembling it from individual pages, not of writing it from start to finish. As if I'll have a bunch of chapters hanging on a line like they're photos developing, and I'll pick and choose from among them, putting them into a pleasing order. Say, that idea of pages hanging on a line would make a nice photo.

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    2. I think it's cool how our minds can piece everything together. I tend to think the timing of the events of the story are so easily arranged in our heads that it doesn't matter what order we present them in. So, it comes down to how we want to reveal things and how we can manipulate that to create more drama. Which is cool!

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    3. Yeah, once you separate "story" from narrative, you see that you can arrange the events in any order you find most interesting, for all sorts of effects. In the thing I'm writing now, I reveal a bunch of stuff pretty early on. The plot is less important than the way it's told, the interrelationship between events more important than the events themselves. I'm working with ideas of patterns and repetition of images. The narrator admits right away when something seems improbable, but what can he do? That's the story he's got and he has to work with it.

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  3. Mmm, I've got feta in the fridge. Hooray!

    I like what you've written here. I like how it doesn't matter what order it's all in, and I find that fascinating and truly what character-driven fiction means. I would love to be able to write something like that! And pen and paper ... nice! Scott should be proud, hehe. :)

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    1. Scott is proud! And Davin should be proud, because I'm writing my newest thing without any outline (though I admit that I have a growing list of "stuff to include" though none of that is in any particular order and the story has only the loosest idea of a plot).

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    2. I made a pasta salad with cherry tomatoes and garlic and peas and feta. The feta were little bursts of flavor. :)

      I'm trying to focus on creating stand-out characters in this piece. I can't decide if they're likeable yet, but I want them to feel real and three-dimensional first.

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    3. Likeable isn't the author's problem. Compelling is the author's problem. I'm just trying to write books that make people want to keep reading until the end. Anyway, I think that half the time when readers say a character wasn't "likeable," what they really mean is that the character wasn't vivid and well-imagined. Flat.

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    4. For this story (about having an affair) I feel that likeability will come into play. That's why I want to address it. I want readers to take sides. Maybe.

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    5. My unsolicited opinion is that if you empathize with the characters, and you really care what happens to them, then the reader will, too. You don't have to do anything special to make them likeable aside from really loving them yourself. Patience Quince is a lunatic pain in the ass, but people seem to love her because, I think, I'm so in love with that character. William Bull is a mentally-ill multiple murderer, but I think readers want his story to end better for him than it does. But your stories operate differently than mine, on some levels I can't quite point to. Blah blah blah. You have to excuse me; I'm re-reading Cocke & Bull and I'm admittedly really impressed with my own book, which is a nice thing but it makes me think I know more about writing than I actually do. It's just temporary, though.

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    6. Scott, I think that's fair. Reading Cocke & Bull, I felt your sense of love for the characters. Maybe I'm still searching for that in this story, and that will make them likeable to me. I'm glad you are seeing how good your book is. Because it is.

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  4. Late to the game. Hi Davin. Nice to see you started your own blog. Especially about food. I'm following you from my Robynne Rand blog, but really, it's me, Anne Gallagher.

    Anyway, just wanted to say, I ADORE this new piece you're writing above. I LOVE that it's out of context, out of order. I don't think that really matters though. I can see the images clearly and what each little paragraph represents. It's totally fab.

    I'm glad I stopped over because I'm also writing a "thing" don't really know what to call it, it's definitely not a story, more like commentary from characters about another character who tells (has told) her own story. Anyway, I'm glad you're discussing this, because now I feel I have permission to write my "thing" the way I want to instead of the conventional storyteller way. I forget that I can do that sometimes and seeing this conversation here, allows me to open my mind to the possibility.

    So thanks. And I make my pasta salad with baby shrimp, black olives, cherry toms, and garlic with just a smidge of olive oil and parmesian.

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    1. Hi Anne! Thanks a lot for reading. I've been following your adventures with moving. I hope things are calming down for you. You know, I thought of you as I was writing this story. It feels a little like a romance to me, even though I don't know all the traits that make a story romance. I'm really glad you are liking this!

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  5. It's been my opinion that a story about two people, any two people, always has an element of romance in it. There's a bond that forms that you can't disguise, even if it's between a surly master sargent in the army and a lowly corporal -- if they're fighting in a foxhole in the jungle -- there's that bond -- friendship, maybe, trust, absolutely, respect, certainly -- and these are the traits that make up most romances. So go ahead and write it however you want. Don't worry about the romance, it's there.

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