Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My plan for Wednesday

My plan for today is: write.

My plan for tonight is: blog.

During the daylight hours, I need to disappear into that other thing I do, but I'll see you when the moon rises. Meanwhile, the regular tables are reserved for you, the coffee's hot, we have Kelly's fav teas, and it's not as if you can't find anything to talk about!

See you in a few hours.


Nancy P said...

G'night before g'morning.

GhostFolk.com said...

Nancy, your post about a predetermined predominate emotion driving you into and through your writing a novel troubles me.

It's either an idiosyncratic quirk of yours based on a core of unusually well-disguised insanity or a universal truth.

First, I'm not certain I have ever felt an emotion I could name or, honestly, isolate by name.

Still first, my strongly felt emotions have always been the result of a cocktail of mixed emotions and, of these, usually conflicting emotions.

And firstly, this makes it hard for me to act on my emotions, let alone name them.

Secondly, though, finding a fictional situation that might re-create the emotions may be just the ticket. For me, though, it is not the ticket for entry into writing fiction.

It certainly might be just the ticket I need for the real naked stuff, however. The Real Show.

GhostFolk.com said...

One of the books I picked up decades ago is Stephen Roger Peck's Atlas Of Facial Expressions.

It is basically a book for artists. Peck organizes facial expressions by emotion, illustrated, and describes the elements of facial change that go into each expression. Of emotion.

How a person's face reacts to fear or sadness is interesting. I thought the book would help me to keep from writing "someone smiled" over and over again.

But it brings up the point of the models' (used for his illustrations) expressing fear, sadness etc.

And the question "Must an actor feel fear to express fear?"

Method says yes. Kabuki says no.

And then, must a writer feel fear in order to express fear? At the time the writer is composing?

Do I, as a writer, have to re-live fear at the moment to be able to write fear at the moment? Revulsion? Anger? Sadness? Terror?

Nancy, can we simply remember lust to write lust, or must we lust to write lust?

No wonder there are blocks to writing fiction. Geez. On simply the emotional plane, a writer may very deeply not want to go there in order to go there.

Tracy said...

Hi again, Nancy. I was on the left side (at KAC), but closer to your end of the table.

FARfetched said...

I don't know, Ghost. Are you over-complicating things, maybe? Sometimes I feel what I'm writing, sometimes I write what I've felt, and most often it's just there, coming from a part of me that's outside emotion.

Sometimes, I imagine myself sitting in a lawn chair, invisible, observing a scene and trying to see details that can make it more real for anyone who reads about it. Since I'm invisible — I couldn't otherwise see the scene without affecting it — my vision is also dim. So it takes a while to gather enough information to write it. Lately, I'm trying to see this part of the detective story from last week:

It wasn't an X, but fluttering strips of police tape marked the spot where Manny died. His final meeting had taken place in a shallow bowl between a couple of dunes. Gnarly pines stood sentry on the lake side; two or three blackberry vines trailed down into the bowl like roots looking for water. The constant wind had long since blown away footprints. I was likely standing where one of the crime scene techs had set up their modeler.

Nobody else was out here, so I worked my way down the dune, letting my heels dig into the sand like I did when I was a kid. Sloppy, I know — I should have walked around to the north end, where the ridge was lowest — but I wasn’t disturbing anything that hadn’t been long since captured and stored. Remembering Manny’s final position, I stood facing the way he would have: which turned out to be north. A tickle… no. Manny’s military days were long over. He wouldn’t have been standing at attention waiting a superior officer. I turned around and saw where he would have been sitting and waiting, the steep south side. I walked over there and sat, thinking.

I was agnostic about ghosts, but I remember Manny was a believer. Maybe he was trying to help me. But I felt something where I planted my right hand, and brought it out of the sand: a cigarette butt, fairly recent. Optouts liked their 'baccy. I pulled out a plastic bag and dropped the butt in it, along with a strip of paper noting it. I had some friends in Medical who might be able to help.

A gust of wind pushed the top of the pine tree aside for a moment, momentarily blocking the afternoon sun. I shaded my eyes and squinted, trying to block as much light as I possibly could, trying to see things the way Manny had that night. An idea came to me, and I popped the weather and lunar for that night. Clear, cool, three-quarter moon hanging over the lake: Manny would have been sitting in the deep shadow of the pine tree, all but invisible, watching the most likely entry point. If he’d planned to turn the tables on whoever had killed him, he could have done it without much effort.

What would have alerted him to the arrival of the other guy? Scuffing feet in the sand? Flashlight beam bobbing ahead? Maybe he’d called out? Somehow, I knew Manny was there first and saw (or heard) the other one coming, then stood to meet him. I also stood, scooting down the dune a little, and walked to the spot.

I stood for a while, trying to imagine what was said, and how long they stood there before the other guy drew and shot, but nothing came. I scratched myself for a minute, then gave up: if I were to know what was said, I’d have to catch the shooter.

Turning to get one last impression of the scene, I saw something where I’d been sitting. Something dark, that hadn’t been there before. I went to check it out.

An old 35mm film canister. Those plastic things pretty much lasted forever. It must have been just under the sand, and my scoot had uncovered it. I popped it open, and shook out another thumbnail. I stood there for I don't know how long, until the police tape fluttered over and touched my shoulder. I jumped and dropped the thumbnail, but fortunately it bounced off my shoe and landed in the sand. I scooped it up, dropped it back in the canister, and pocketed it.

Things had just become a bit more complicated.

[And I don't have time for this! I should have been on the road an hour ago!]

Cathy C said...

Good morning, Nancy. I'm coming off a great weekend at the NE Crime Bake conference in MA, and fighting a cold from having too good a time.

I was very interested in your post yesterday and the way you explained the presence of "birthed" emotion in what you consider your more successful stories.

Ghost brought up a good question:
"Do I, as a writer, have to re-live fear at the moment to be able to write fear at the moment?"

Thinking about it now, when I make a connection with my character and what he/she's feeling, the writing is better and the character becomes fuller. While I don't have to experience my character's exact emotion and degree of it (I've never been chased by a gun-wielding nutcase, but I have felt fear), I don't think I could write fear, sadness... as well if I hadn't experienced them in some fashion.

Ghost, your mention of "Atlas of Facial Expressions" reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" (and Paul Ekman's work) and how fascinating the whole subject of emotions and their connection to facial expressions is.

I will be writing today too, although I fear my character's will all have head colds. Sigh... sniff

GhostFolk.com said...

Nice, nice, VERY NICE crime scene, Far. You have me there with you, that's for sure! Blackberry vines is such a marvelous touch.

Hey, you're good! I love the thumbnail, btw.

I was surpised to see a reference to a pine tree on in the description. You may already have pines in place elsewhere in the story. If not, you might consider mentioning a pine earlier. By tying the police tape around it?

Cathy C., Blink is on my list to read. Dang it. ( By the time I catch up to my culture, it has well passed me. )

But I want to read what you're writing first. Hurry up. :-)

Kelly McCullough said...

Hi all,

I've got a convention this weekend so will be a very light presence on the web, but I wanted to stick my nose in on the emotional context stuff as ghost brings it up.

I read it not so much as I must hate to write hate or feel loss to write loss, in an ongoing way so much as write something that matters deeply to you, something you really feel for. My friend Harry says "write what turns you on" by which he means write what moves you on an emotional level.

For me that can mean writing something that tries to capture an emotion or mitigates it or transforms it when I am looking at it with my reader brain. For me that's a single pass operation.*

*One of the things that I do that I have found that many writers don't is parallel track writing brain, reading brain, and editing brain as I am writing. Most of my attention is in the book as a writer but I'm also running an ongoing dialog with my internal reader and editor both of whom are looking over my shoulder and saying things like "oh, cool" and "continuity error, either fix it here, or go back and adjust the paragraph in chapter two."

FARfetched said...

Thanks, Ghost. The pine tree was there at the beginning, just mentioned in passing: check the third sentence, just before the blackberry vines. :-) Too subtle? There's a bunch of work to be done on a first draft, to be sure — I just typed it into the comment box & then pasted into local storage.

Kelly, that's an excellent way of putting it! Were we all really looking too closely at this?

Beth said...

I have the same dialogue going on in my head, Kelly, even though I keep screaming at them, "This is a first draft - shut up and let me get it down first!"

I try to tap into how I would feel when something is happening to a character. I close my eyes and put myself into their situation, and then I write what I feel - the shortness of breath, the tension, the stabbing pain in my heart or stomach... But if I have no experience - like seeing someone being killed - I have to fake it. Maybe that's why I don't write mysteries!

Kelly McCullough said...

Beth, in my case the internal dialog actually speeds me along and smooths my path. My internal editor is never a critic but always a collaborator. My internal reader is invariably really excited to see what comes next and eager to help speed things up in any way possible.

Beth said...

That's great, Kelly! Mine tend to bitch at me. "That's passive voice! You already used that word! No one's going to believe that!"

Maybe I can send them away on a retreat with yours, to learn some manners. :-)

I'm a VERY positive person, so I guess I'll see if I can convince them to be more supportive in the future.

Kelly McCullough said...

Beth, I think your experiences with the internal editor are much more consistent with the general writer's road than mine. I have spent a good bit of my life being reminded that I'm a very strange monkey. Raised secular Taoist, went to an open school, grew up with a schizophrenic in the house, it all adds up to very different set of initial assumptions about the universe and life experiences.

Jen said...

Maybe I can send them away on a retreat with yours, to learn some manners. :-)

HA! Can I buy mine a ticket for that trip, too?

GhostFolk.com said...

Perfectly done, Far, missing the pine was just me walking around iwth one eye closed.

True story: I had a teeny small wee bit of premonition with this piece, btw. When your narr. was going over to where someone sat and he finds the cigarette butt, I had the distinct thought he was going to find fingernail clippings. Honest, I did.

Then when he turns up the canister ... I had to gulp. I would kind of think my mind's eye caught a glimpse but I had the thought only of nail clippings and not of the word "thumb" at all.

Now, wanna know who did it?

Just a joke. Far, I really want to re-emphasize HOW NICELY DONE this scene is! Such clean and interesting writing.

Your writing will see you through any book you want to do, Far.

GhostFolk.com said...

But if I have no experience - like seeing someone being killed

Oh, Beth, this can be easily arranged.

You, Me, the Whitehouse.

GhostFolk.com said...

My internal editor is never a critic but always a collaborator. My internal reader is invariably really excited to see what comes next and eager to help speed things up in any way possible.

Kelly, I'd really like to borrow these people.

Nancy P said...

Back, briefly. Nice scene, far!

Do you guys know that Kimberly has been sick? And Andif is on the road again. I don't know where family man is. We're missing a few this week, and will miss you, Kelly, while you're off at the convention.

boran2 said...

Happy writing, Nancy!

Beth said...

Welcome back, Nancy! Hope you wrote lots of pretty words today.

Kelly, your upbringing sounds fascinating. I'd love to hear more...

Like the story, Far!

Kimberly says she's feeling better.

Ghost, you're always so supportive, ESP or not! And lol re the White House...I'm with you on that one -

Hope all are having a great week. I'm stuffed with sangria and delish Mexican dinner, and heading to bed. No internet for a couple of days - be good while I'm gone! :-)

FARfetched said...

Hi y'all. Thanks for the kind comments on the story. I'll talk more in the current thread....

Kelly McCullough said...

Far, Ghost is right, that's a great vignette.

Everybody else, I'll see if the internal editor and reader are up for a seminar or something. They've always been cooperative so far, so who knows.