Friday, May 21, 2010

Making the Spontaneous Inevitable

It's a cool day today, if I open the back door and let the breeze in, otherwise my room gets stuffy and stays that way. It's a hassle to open the door, though. Years of not being used, and the screen and parts of the sliding glass door had rusted, plus there isn't much floor space to get any good leverage. But the breeze is nice when I put in the effort, and outside, a tree that had looked dead for weeks, is in bloom, seemingly dried out twigs suddenly sprouting delicate lavender blooms.

[You can see the branches as a background, like a tangle of graying yarn.
I took this photo just before typing this post.]

I like to stare out the glass door and seeing the flowers open and close over the day, waxbills and doves and bulbuls flitting in and out of frame. Before I got a digital camera, some of those moments might warrant a quick line or two of description scribbled on the nearest Post-it or note pad, now it's a click away.

I memorialize these moments, thinking one day this line or that might make it into a story. It's such a striking image to me, I want to share it with others.

I couldn't tell you how many such scribbled lines fill notepads and journals, still catching my eye as I flip through to a clean page, but never finding their way into a story. For one thing, I never remember to look for these written down moments of setting and mood.

For another, I don't know whether the moments would be the same. Partly because I'm still growing as a writer, one of my "always trying to improve" issues is the balance between description and action, and when it comes to setting, right now I tend to err on the side of "keep it in my head." I get caught up trying to keep the flow of action, I don't naturally slip in these sorts of lines. I worry that doing so might sound forced, or come across as purple prose. I'm working on it.

I guess, then, this post is just a reminder to myself not to forget these moments in a story and to share a little of my world with you readers.

Enjoy. Happy writing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fairy Tales and how much fun they are to twist

Playing around with ideas for a new story (old premise, fairy tales in the modern world), I was pondering protagonists. Jack (of Beanstalk fame) seems to be pretty popular, and is usually lumped together with those Jacks of hill-falling and candlestick-jumping renown. Likewise every story with a nameless Prince Charming turns into one single womanizing Prince.

These are not bad things. I like their portrayal in The Sisters Grimm and Fables series, but, as fairy tales often do, they make me wander about the gender roles and amalgamation of characters. What if all the Jacks were separate people, what if there was just one Prince per princess/maiden/heroine? What if "Jack" was a girl, either a female version of the smushed together version, or one girl out of a slew of fellas?

One of the nice things about where my brain is going with this is that it lends itself well to short stories. If you've followed this blog for any length of time, I doubt it's a surprise that short stories are not my forte. I like novels. But the idea of a female Jackie amongst half a dozen other male Jacks is intriguing. I don't know if this thread will make it into the novel that's forming, but I want to write a short story and see how I can play with the gender stereotypes. Not just Jacqueline and Jill went up the hill, or Jackie nimbly jumping over things, but perhaps the most popular Jack finding that beanstalk the next morning, climbing, finding treasures to bring back to her mother, and the subsequent task of killing giants that are trying to kill her.

But for now, like with most of my recent stories, I'm just waiting for a plot to catch up with the characters and premise.