Hopefully, you’re one of the lucky ones whose imagination explodes into vivid motion picture when you hear good music. Everyone has their own kind of music with which this “works,” so if you’re one of these fortunate souls, please tell me what you’re listening to in the comments section below.
Music is an integral part of my process. When I hear it, especially songs with a lot of atmosphere, I see disconnected scenes. I call these scenes set pieces because they are emotionally charged whirlwinds of narration that accelerate the plot. Here, I become my characters for the first time and then build a story around them including an immersive setting and conflict.
Well, these are the first steps at least. By the time I’m finished with a story, it may look a bit different than the original idea (rewritten and revised TO DEATH), but the spirit of these set pieces stays in tact. I keep in touch with a handful of anchor songs as I write, and it’s fun to return to them when I’m finished, reflecting on how much the narrative changed after being stapled down by details.
Does your imagination that move to music?
Michelle Joyce Bond
About once every two months, I’m like: “Oh yeah, this is TOTALLY the last revision. I’m done, damn it. Done!” Then I’ll close in on the end and shake my head. “No, you tiny fool. You need to do this again.” They’ll be adjustments in every scene for language and detail. I’ll find weak dialogue and odd metaphors. It’s nothing global. I’m sculpting, and I can’t stop. I’ve gone through this 135,000 word book at least twenty times–minimum. It’s been almost two years. I was supposed to be finished in June…then September. Now, I’m hoping to finally say “done” by the new year; that is, with the manuscript. If I’m lucky enough to attract the attention of an agent, I’m more than happy to go back to work, but I’ve got to cut myself off sometime. 🙂
Writers, how many times do you revise a book before saying, “Enough!”
Michelle Joyce Bond
Misconception: A good writer can convey the tone of any text by working the craft.
Reality: We need our freakin’ smilies. 🙂
Try this experiment. Put a paper bag on your head and duct tape your arms to your sides. Then go out to a bar and try to pick someone up. Easy right? Wrong! Now, go to a different bar with a smiley face drawn on the paper bag. Suddenly, you’re a hit! People are buying you drinks and shoving phone numbers in your pants. Well…maybe not exactly, but you get the point.
So much of our communication lies in the subtle nuances of body language. Even speaking, we finds ourselves back pedaling to make sure we don’t offend other people. With text, it’s often easy to read something four different ways. I watch my workmates sharing messages from other people all the time, trying to decipher them as though they’re reading cuneiform.
Emoticons make the tone behind one’s writing much clearer, and god do we need that smiley. It’s our, “I’m just being friendly, so please don’t take this that seriously…but like me. LIKE ME!” stamp on everything.
I know not everyone feels this way, but super smiley evidence suggest A LOT of us do. I, for one, can’t help myself. 🙂
Michelle Joyce Bond
Word space = the amount of space in a text that passes before a given word pops up again
Listening to books on disc in your car that have not been revised for word space = you flailing your arms and shouting obscenities while pedestrians stare in bewilderment
Imagine, if you will, that all words have a unique charge. They push away from each other, so you can’t have too many of them in the same page or even in the same chapter. The exceptions to this rule include articles, pronouns, and other frequently used words that are basic to the reader’s comprehension. Almost every other word, like voice for instance, needs to be handled with care.
“Are you going to kiss me now?” Ronald asked in a husky voice.
Burger’s voice dropped in pitch. “Oh yes.”
“Then why,” Ronald started, his voice catching, “don’t you take off that box and come over here?” *end scene*
Granted, the book playing in my car had a good enough plot to get me through dialogue like this (something much more riveting than burger love), but every time a word got repeated, I felt like digging my fingernails into the dashboard.
People please REVISE FOR WORD SPACE! Otherwise, I swear, I’ll go flying off a cliff.
Michelle Joyce Bond
1 husband obsessed with Doctor Who (Tom Baker is his god)
2 free hours (very rare–may need to kill for this)
1 box of rainbow cake batter mixed to package directions
rainbow licorice cut into small pieces
blue sugar crystals
maraschino cherries sliced in half
Blast rock music. Pour rainbow batter into large and mini cupcake pans. Throw pans in hot oven. Chop cherries and licorice with maddening speed (butter knife recommended). Dip ends of licorice in blue sugar. These are the Dalek eyes–make them pretty! Stick halved cherries on half of the candles to make the silly little plungers. Set the other candles aside for the gun arms.
Pull cupcakes out of oven before then turn into carbon. Ice big cupcakes and out them upside down on a tray. Ice small cupcakes and add as heads. Line up M&Ms in the bottom cupcakes for the hemispheres aka Dalek bumps that decorate their skirts. Stick eyestalks into heads and candles into body–half plunger, half plain. Top with sweet, little licorice ears.
Give your newly minted Daleks a pep talk. Inform the that, though you did a terrible job on the icing, they are the supreme beings of the universe and all other lifeforms must be destroyed.
Find husband. Line him up in front of tiny Dalek army. Wait until his guard is down: “OMG, they’re adorable!” Light the candles/gun arms on fire. Sing “Happy Birthday” as you take cover. Enjoy!
So as not to get bored during the course of my brief rant, please imagine a horde of adorable rabbits breaking into your room with a boom box and proceeding to dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Good? Okay.
Write to entertain–it’s your job. Even if you write an article to inform, you need to keep your audience alive. Play on their emotions. Tickle their bones–funny or otherwise. Scare them. Shock them. Make them uncomfortable.
This goes for blogs as well as books. If you’re reading this, I gather you have a blog. Whatever its purpose, play to your audience. One cannot write well in a vacuum. Words keep getting sucked into the dust bucket where they swirl around in a suck storm of writing that stays inside of you and never makes it into the hearts or minds of your readers. Remember why you’re posting. It’s not just as a reflection of yourself (or ideal self). It’s another way of communicating or connecting with other human beings, and you must have patience with us. We are flawed, myopic, and ADD. Give us some brain candy, and we might listen.
If you have any thoughts to add on thIs topic–or that of dancing rabbits–please post below. 🙂
The hairless blog dog sits all day with its wiry tail lying limp on the floor. Its letter teeth grin up at you each time you pass its door. Creepily, it bides its time. It knows at night you’ll break and take it to that park in the dark where strangers stare openly, and the blog dogs howl–and once in a while, someone dares to say, “Hi.” Your bloggy doesn’t sleep, so you tie it to the wall. Then you fall in your bed with its face in your head and try to ignore its whine.
The cookie box says no-bake. “Add peanut butter,” it instructs. “Easy,” it says. But you’re fresh out of Skippy and starting to get desperate. Sugarblind, you dump the mix in a bowl and half the kitchen follows: eggs, butter, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, flour, and salt. You laugh maniacally as you slide the concoction into the oven.
“Fool,” they say. “It can’t be done!” But thirty minutes later, the bell chimes. Lightning splits your neighbor’s tree. Trembling, you pull that bubbling bundt from the oven and marvel in its vanilla-sweet glory.
You taste. It’s good but…strange. There’s an alien tang underlying the sweetness–subtle notes of weird. You turn the no-bake cookie box over. Soybean oil? Who the heck puts soy in cookies? And then it dawns on you. You could’ve easily made a cake without the mix. All the ingredients were there. What is wrong with you?
“Don’t worry,” you whisper, sprinkling powdered sugar over your monstrous creation. “They’ll except you. They have to. You’re the only dessert in the house, baby. You’re going to be a star!”
Michelle Joyce Bond
How does someone embedded in American culture survive into adulthood without watching even one Star Wars movie? Easy. American culture reproduces itself.
Thanks to Spaceballs, Muppet Babies, countless internet parodies, and two-minute clips of the movies via channel surfing, I don’t stare blankly when someone makes a Wookiee sound or puts a bucket on their head and claims to be my father…though maybe I should.
WARNING: What follows is a poorly reconstructed plot of some of the Star Wars movies courtesy of my TV-saturated childhood.
Luke lives on a dusty planet with is aunt and uncle who get blown up for some reason while Luke is at a crazy alien bar listening to some cosmic saxophone. But that’s okay since he was going to leave anyway. A couple of robots showed him this video of a beautiful princess in need of help, and like any red-blooded dust-worlder, he decides to go after her. Obi-Wan Brown-Roby tells Luke he has the Force and tosses him this awesome light sword. Then Luke jumps in a ship with a friendly Wookiee and some guy named Hans.
They blast off to the Death Star where they break out Princess Leia and then engage in full-blown space combat. Luke gets in his zippy space craft, uses the Force to make a hole-in-one, and the Death Star explodes in a shower of glorious fireworks. Leia loves them so much that she gives Luke a medal. Then he flies off and starts tripping giant robots for fun. Eventually, his ship breaks down in swamp, but he finds a cool little green mechanic who will do the wax-on, wax-off thing with him.
Luke chills in the swamp until he gets word that his friends are in trouble. Darth Vader made Hans into a big ‘ol paper weight and Leia is chained to a blob. Luke meets up with Vader on the catwalk and they play Ninja Laser Tag until Luke’s hand falls off. Vader tells Luke he’s his father, but Luke would rather jump down a hole than deal with that. He gets a bitchin’ robot hand and then…I don’t know…saves the universe!
It gets pretty fuzzy after that–some kind of trap and a queen with hair like a vacuum cleaner hose. Why did I never sit my sad self down and actually watch one of these things? Maybe I’m lazy…or maybe I prefer the movie in my mind.
Michelle Joyce Bond
Please tell me I’m not alone in this. I fall out of bed and shuffle to my kitchen–my two-ton body prepared to engage in the automatic construction of something that resembles breakfast–but something stops me dead on the tiles. The remains of an all night Kellogg’s mixer litter my counter top. Captain Crunch leans heavily on Toucan Sam, his crunchy yellow guts ready to spill at the slightest movement. Rice Krispies mix shamelessly with Fruity Pebbles, and Tony the Tiger, resting awkwardly on his side, raises an accusing finger to my face.
I breathe and count the boxes then convert that number into miles. It’s going to be a long run.
My fellow cereal junkies–answer me this: What keeps you up at night? What are you doing in-between bites?
Michelle Joyce Bond