Door always open.
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2007-01-15 10:24 AM
Do you know the rue to San Josu?
While waiting for this:
I'm eating breakfast with the cash I finally got from the only machine in the area that takes my card, watching snow out the window of Presse Cafe at Saint-Denis and Rue Ontario, trying not to acknowledge little-boy homesickness, and posting yesterday's blog entry, which I couldn't do at the time. Later I may tell you how my hotel isn't really a hotel.
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I'm on my second paper cup of coffee in the cafe car of the Adirondack line, New York to Montreal. I'm spending the week in Montreal's Latin Quarter putting together the plot outline for the novel. If my client comes through, I'll also spend part of the time editing language instruction recordings. Right now I'm avoiding transferring the random contents of the bent old index cards scattered in my backpack onto nice new color-coded ones.
I don't usually work with start-to-end plot outlines, but this story is bigger and more complicated than a linear 3rd-person crime novel. It's [information redacted]. I'm not going to tell you what it's about, and I may very well redact even the information in the sentence previous to this one. This isn't because I'm superstitious about talking about my writing; it's because I'm pragmatic about not wasting the impulse to tell a story. If I tell you, it's told. Then I don't have such pressure inside me to tell it, and I need that. If I don't feel any urgency, urgency won't show up in the story, either.
Know how after you tell a joke, if somebody didn't hear it, you don't feel like telling it again? That's me if I tell you what the story's about. Even vague stuff about setting or theme. I sometimes tell writer friends a little bit, just because I enjoy talking to them about writing, but I always feel like I shouldn't be doing that, and worry that it may have bled some pressure.
This may not be true for other writers, but it's true for me. This is my instrument, and I've learned how to play it. It's not that different from playing sad piano when you're feeling sad, or angry guitar when you're feeling angry. If you're not feeling it, the gig won't be as good. It's not as though the piano's sad. It's got to come from you.
That's true for improvisation, anyway. At least for me. If you're a classically trained musician, you can play death by tuberculosis when you're actually in a very happy mood, but I'm not a classically trained musician. All I know how to do is use pieces of myself.
Since I understand myself even less than I understand you, I don't understand why my process works. But I know I can trust it. It's the only completely reliable thing there is. My faith in it is absolute. (My faith in my ability to do right by it is a different issue.)
And since I barely understand myself, I also can't tell you what genre this story is. It's just the story I have to tell now. There are some interesting conversations, elsewhere on the web, about art vs. audience, and finding the balance, and style vs. substance, and all that. They're seriously interesting, and I'm participating. I hope to achieve the perfect balance of all those things. But I can't try to do them. All I can try to do is take this sun out of my soul and make the paper glow on its own.
Try telling a writing class that. Take the sun out of your soul and make the paper glow on its own. Class dismissed. I'll be at the bar if you want to pry for answers, which I don't have.
Try telling them this, too: People talk about heart in a story, and intellect, but rarely about the body. I want to feel the writing in my body, not just jerk your tears or make a clever origami bird. Though I want to do those things, too. Just not without the other element. For me, complete art is body, heart, mind. I don't propose this as an objective definition. I just feel a loss when one of those things isn't in the work.
Maybe that's more a music approach than a story approach, but we work with our handicaps.
The description I redacted earlier made it sound like a thriller, and I do hope to invoke the thriller's urgency, but I really couldn't give a shit whether the stolen bomb is defused in time to save the Eastern Seaboard. Michael Seidman once made the observation that my entire plots are Maguffins. He was absolutely right. The Jason books are about grace and loyalty. (Well, they're also about other things, like being funny, but I'm making a different point.) The plots, I killed myself making them the way I liked them; but really, compared to grace and loyalty, who cares?
Station stop. Gray-brown forest, gray-tan sky outside the cafe car windows. Bruce Hornsby plays live in my headphones. He's perfect for the moment but won't make it onto my novel-writing playlist, which so far (I just started the list an hour ago, as my iPod plays) consists of Scott Gibbons and Asian Dub Foundation. Afro Celt Sound System made it on the list, but I think that's just because it goes well with train travel. It'll come off the list when I look at it again in Montreal.
Jimi Hazel might make it.
Possibly some Bhangra music. Possibly Frank Martin's trombone ballade, though I already used that for DEAD GRAY, which had a haunting trombone soundtrack. (As opposed to a haunted trombone soundtrack. There's my next book right there: THE HAUNTED TROMBONE. Oh, wait--it's been done. ACCORDION CRIMES, E. Annie Proulx.)
Sintesis won't make it onto the playlist.
Stevie Wonder won't make it onto the playlist.
Nine Inch Nails, definitely. I should get some Ministry, too.
Zvonar/Black@Banff are in. Not sure yet about the Muppets.
11:51 AM, Sunday Jan. 14, 2007
Somewhere upstate, 6 hours to go.
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It sucks to know a table full of index cards isn't a plot.
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