Friday, April 3, 2009
Inkblot Panorama 5, Plus Some Writing Thoughts
Well, last night's writer's group meeting was really good for me. The solutions to two big problems have possibly come to light.
The first had to do with my story God's Tourists. It's already been published in the small press magazine Monday Night but I've been reworking it for reasons explained here. The story is more or less about my relationship with my grandma Jean Bishop. I used a bunch of aliens to help turns my memories into a story -- briefly, they're a bunch of New Age types who wind up making knockoff versions of my Christian Scientist grandma for sale. The end scene is the strongest emotional moment in the story but it has none of the SF components that drive the narrative.
Rob suggested that I might have the statements made by my grandma in the last scene made by one of the knockoff versions of her instead and the idea clicked. I'm going to have to give up some of my favorite moments in the story to make it work -- stuff Allison told me to keep -- but it's the old story. We call it killing your darlings...
Speaking of Allison, reading her work has really lit a fire under my ass. I mentioned in a previous post that I was disappointed by my novel.
It's lacking the guts I intended it to have. The most common and most frustrating criticism I've received about the novel has been that the protagonist's motivation/problems have been unclear.
"Why is he so down on himself?" "Why doesn't he just get laid?" "Why does he do that for those people -- it's not like they did anything for him."
Well, as I've mentioned before the protagonist is a stand-in for me in my twenties. When I was really, really nuts. I tried to address this in the novel by showing my thoughts and emotional stated honestly. It hasn't worked out.
But Allison's work has finally made me realize that the problem is that I need to just lay some of this right out. Her stuff has the kind of emotional intensity that I've been aiming for and missing. And she does it by just saying exactly what she means to say. By unapologetically airing what some might see as dirty laundry.
I've realized that for all my attempts to be honest I've been holding back. I need to spill my guts here if I'm going to write the book I intend to write. It's not going to take all that much in the way of actual words -- it'll probably come out to five or ten pages of manuscript -- but it will make that crucial difference, I hope.
I can't get away with just saying things like, "There were already too many people for me to handle so when the doorbell rang again I went to my room. I was mulling over the fact that no one cared enough to check on poor me when there was a knock on the door."
Plain and simple, that fails to give the emotional impact of deep-rooted social anxiety, the whole tangled knot of misery that lies behind that kind of alienation. It's weak sauce. I need to bring the real thing.
I hope I can pull it off.