Monday, October 30, 2006

Underwear and the writing process

Why is it impossible to get a comfortable pair of underwear these days? They're either thongs or they're freaking boy shorts, which, thank you, do not work on those of us with hips.

Boy shorts. I mean, fuck off.

Not to mention that they truncate you at the top of the thigh, right where most of us need a little strategic help. What's wrong with a little high-rise action that also covers your ass?

Take these. I can't even look at them without becoming outraged. Ruffles? Ruffles. On underwear. I AM NOT SIX. Even if I were, I doubt I'd need the padding.


(blows out air)

OK, fine, I admit it: they are hot in a very wrong way. I trust you to rap your own knuckles with a ruler. That's what I'll be doing right after I buy a pair and try them out on C.

Anyway. In case you're wondering why I am fulminating about clothing my nether regions instead of, oh, say, working on Pere, it's all part of my process. If I can get to 20,000 words before NaNoWriMo starts, I am treating myself to some slinky new underthings. Only I've done the thong thing, yes, thank you Cosa Bella, you can go now, and I'm tired of the boy shorts thing, because see above.

(blows out air)

So anyway. If you're getting ready for NaNoWriMo, I'd like to suggest a couple exercises.

First, it might be helpful to consider theme and premise. Are you writing about a specific theme? Love, war, ambition? If so, it might be helpful to take 15 minutes and decide what you might want to say with your story.

And remember, this will probably change as you write it. That's OK! It's to be expected! ALL FIRST DRAFTS SUCK. NaNo just gets you through the first draft, and that's good!

OK, so now, name your theme. It's probably one word; at the most, two. What's your story about? Love? Ambition? Justice? Revenge? Whatever. Put it down on paper.

Now, your premise. What do you want to say about your theme? What do you believe about it? That's your premise, and your book - when it's done, months from now, when you've written your first draft and taken a good cold look at it and revised and revised--well, your book should support your premise.

But knowing what your premise is now will help you stay on track while you're writing your book.

Your premise could come down to a truism or saying, and forgive me while I trot a few out:

  • Love sometimes means letting go.
  • Ambition is as dangerous as complacency.
  • If you seek peace, first work for justice.
  • Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Now take 15 minutes and brainstorm about three major dramatic actions that happen in your stor: the mother sacrificing to save her child, the hero deciding to go on the journey even though it would be easier to stay put, the reversal when the girl warrior realizes it the only way to win the real war is to put down her sword.

Now. Do these three actions prove your premise? If not, do you tweak the premise itself or the actions? (I'd tweak the premise, but I'm lazy.)

The point of this exercise is to get you thinking about what you want to say, and to make sure the broad strokes of your story support it. It can be helpful, but if you find it's draining the energy from your story -- or for you -- give it up as a bad deal and go eat a cookie or drink a beer or something.

Or do the second exercise, which is way less structured and way more fun. Get a pen and a sticky pad and write down the elements of stories you loved as a child -- fairy tales, cartoons, movies, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, whatever.

Some of the things on my list:

  • Forest
  • Clearing
  • Witch
  • Storm
  • Cave
  • Midnight
  • The orphan
  • The crone
  • Spells
  • Gardens
  • Wishes
  • etc

Stones, bones, feathers, and blood. The pomegranate tree, which is on my mind lately; the wish that goes unspoken. The hand with the mark on its palm, the wounded child, the burning heart. The white bird that leads you out of - or into - the dark place. The one that leads you where you need to go.

The point here is to keep writing until you hit something crunchy, like I feel I did in that last paragraph. Imagine that: it took all those paragraphs of me bitching about underwear to hit on the core group of things I want to put in my book.

Now, were I one to actually revise entries before posting them, I'd delete all that other crap so as not to inflict it on you... but unfortunately, you're stuck with me just as I am, today.


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