Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Writing assignment

Yesterday, most oddly, both Dick and I posted about Stephen King and Dickens to the Web. Thinking I should give this weird coincidence some meaning, I picked up a copy of King's "On Writing" at the library.

I heard this was a good book. In my faulty memory, I seem to recall that his writing it started a change in how critics saw King. His writing advice is good. So, tonight, when I woke up at 2:00am and realized I wasn't going back to sleep, I read almost two chapters.

I had thought Baty's idea of throwing out the idea of plotting a novel was probably some sort of ruse used for the insane task of writing a novel in thirty days. The idea fits in with the whole NaNoWriMo gestalt (oy, I wrote gestalt*).

Well, it turns out that Stephen King doesn't put much stock in plotting, either (and you King haters out there are probably saying to yourselves, "Well, that's why his novels suck", though you probably didn't use the word suck, but some more intellectual descriptor).

Of his own plots, King writes (and I'm paraphrasing here), they go something like this:
Writer is stuck in a haunted house.
Two people are trapped in a car.
Woman is accused of murdering someone she did not.

And that's it. Not being able to sleep, I followed his directions for this book's one and only assignment. I wrote whatever popped into my mind after reading the sentence "estranged ex-lover kills girlfriend". I may have forgotten the original sentence, but I'm too lazy, at 4:54am, to go get the book from two feet away.

The upshot of this is that I wrote 1462 pages words before I felt even slightly stuck about where to go next. NaNoWriMo's challenge is to write approximately 1660 words a day in order to write our 50,000 word novel. I have been thinking I'm crazy for thinking that's going to be a piece of cake. It won't be after day three. I'm sure of that. But I do know, after tonight, that it is emminently doable. And I don't need a plot.

The kicker for me is that I need to cross off "love stories" from my list of dislikes. Now I'm only down to two things I don't like in novels! I found it surprisingly fun to write about the beginning of a doomed love story, as I did when I prompted myself with a variation King's writing prompt, "Ex-girlfriend and possible suspect in death of locally known small town jerk tells all."

What was I wrote any good? Beats the heck out of me.

*Here's the Merriam Webster definition of gestalt, which doesn't get at the real meaning of the word in most contexts (in my humble opinion): A structure, configuration, or pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts.

Painting note: Pablo Picasso "The Lovers" I tried to find a date for this, but couldn't, oddly enough. I'd guess it was pre-1901 because of its style. Correct me if my assumption is wrong.

I don't know that much about Picasso besides the fact that he had a huge ego. My parents both loved Picasso, and there was a print of this painting in my house when I was young. I didn't like it then, and I still do not. If these are lovers, they are surely wooden. And her hand - ugh!- I don't mean to be so picky, but it screams "please paint over me!" I have honestly never understood all the fuss about this artist. If you admire him, I invite you to write a guest piece about it.

Addendum (and yes, I'm still awake at 6:00am, when I should be waking up, not going back to sleep): I just changed my NaNoWriMo profile page. It now reads that I'm writing a book in the Mystery and Suspence category. I didn't really know what category to put it in. There will be a murder. There will be a suspect. Does that categorically make it a mystery?

So, it's come to this: "In a small rural town, a jilted lover kills her ex, twenty five years after the fact. She does not remember doing it, is a completely unreliable narrator, is clearly unfit to stand trial and has a zillion comspiracy theories about the murder, all of which sound plausible if you don't know the suspect well. But that's small town life. We all know something terrible about one another and when push comes to shove, we can make a lot out of that when we don't know what's really going on. Psych reports, police interrogation reports and snippets of letters will be included. Fun for me! And fun for those who like psychologically twisted stories. But there will be no graphic violence. The killer loves the deceased more than her own life, but like many of us, mistakes possession and jealousy for signs of love."

And I thought I didn't want to go near the subject of love. Ha!

Note: Don't hold me to this story. I've already changed my modus operandi once.

Addendum: Um. The novel will be about the same thing as the writing prompt. Cut me some slack - I was running on two hours of sleep. However, I think I'm going to stick with this story. The beauty of it is this: it is not a great idea. It's not even a good idea. In fact, it's a story that's been told over and again since, well, forever (without the psych reports and all). Maybe there's a reason for that. Such a bare bones "plot" is like handing myself an empty coat hanger and a check for a few thousand dollars - I can put whatever I like on it. Restrictions? None. Possibilities for depth and breadth of story - pretty darned big. So, I'm going for it. Make the most out of the least. I like that.


jmcleod76 said...

i like picasso, but not from that era. the colors are horrid. it reminds me of the set of a 1980s exercise show!

Julie H. Rose said...

The colors on my screen are much nicer than the poster than hung in my parent's house. Even in museums, I never liked Picasso's use of color.

He was a facile and prolific artist, no doubt about that.

I will say that I DO think Guernica is a masterpiece.

TMC said...

1462 pages! You're a savant! And clearly I am a procrastinating doofus because I'd rather point out possible typos than actually work on writing an even mediocre synopsis of my own book. Oh good grief, a BOOK. I need to lie down.

Julie H. Rose said...

Oh ye of the eagle eye! LOL! When I went to correct his, I wrote pages YET AGAIN! But I caught it this time.

I'm still laughing. My laptop is bouncing up and down.

And don't you worry - no synopsis is needed! Just write, um, 1660 WORDS a day.