Thursday, June 6, 2013

Finding the Scene

And there it is.

I have it—that elusive scene that’s been plaguing me for weeks, that I’ve been avoiding like an obnoxious neighbor, that I know needs my attention, but I just can’t commit to mentally or emotionally yet.  It’s a big one. 

Quick aside, I keep calling these chunks of words, these chapters and paragraphs scenes because they play like movies in my mind.  The mental television clicks on and then the scenes unfold so they are scenes to me; sorry if that’s not very literary, but that’s how my books come about.

Anyway, this is a big scene—it’s a major moment, the consequence to prior actions, the come-uppance—and it needs to be grand, it needs to be destructive, it needs to be painful and cathartic on every level: physical, mental, emotional.  It was already written.  I wrote it probably about two years ago.  I hadn’t truly revisited it in over a year.  Everything about the story around it has changed and it’s been sitting on this metaphoric island waiting for me to cup it in my palms and reshape it.  Reading it now, I didn’t like what I had written before.  It involves almost solely a character I hold very dear.  And he deserved so much more than what I had given him.  So I knew I needed to make it better.  I knew that this needed to be a big moment for this character, but I just couldn’t see it.  I have to see it in order to write it.  It wouldn’t play in my head.  When I would pause a moment and focus on nothing, my eyes going hazy and dry—my normal routine to tap into that mental movie and take from it the sap of the story—it was blank.  Nothing appeared.  It was extraordinarily frustrating.  It almost pushed me to shelving the whole damn thing.
And then this morning happened.

There was nothing unique about this morning.  Nothing was different about my routine.  I sat at my desk at work, looking at data and numbers, doling out assignments to my employees, answering emails about boring mortgage guidelines and such and then that T.V. flickered on.  Just a bit.  So I continued on with my day.  And then there were haunting hints in the back of my mind—ghostly images overlapping reality.  A few more flickers.  And then it was there.  An image of a bright white floor with blood pooling on it, the figure looming like a shadow above.  And from there the rest fell into place, like reverse dominos. 
The next step is extracting that scene from my head and converting it to words.  But for now, the hard part, the frustrating part is done.  I was reading on Cassandra Clare’s blog a while back and she has a FAQ section and in that list is the desperate plea of an unknown writer asking what to do to get inspired.  How does Cassandra Clare get unblocked?  Ms. Clare basically said that if you wait around for inspiration, you’re never going to write.  She and other writers live by the AICHOK method: Ass In Chair, Hands On Keyboard.  Stephen King mentions this as well in ON WRITING.  He writes at least 1500 words a day.  Most of it is just crap, filler, dribble, but once he’s amassed enough, he goes back in and cuts a few.  King could also be accused of being a modern day Dickens, meaning you’d think he was getting paid per word, but I see what they are trying to say.  It’s a job and your job is to write, so just write and wade back through the sludge later.

I just can’t operate that way.  Maybe that makes me a bad writer.  Maybe if this were my sole profession and I had publishers and editors and agents waiting on something, anything from me, that I would be all about the toss some spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks method of writing.  For now, I have to see it.  And no amount of tapping angrily on the keyboard will bring that image into focus.  As long as it still appears, I don’t care either way.  Because today I’ll be punishing a character, I will be tormenting him and hurting him and finally get it done so he and I can both heal and move on.

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