Posts Tagged ‘writing is hard’

Whodunnit or Why I’m Stuck on Ch. 14

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

somehow writing always feels like this

I am just over halfway through my revision [*yay!*]. Today I spent nearly the entire day working on the logistics and choreography of a scene the isn’t even going to be in the book [*boooooo!*]. Let me explain.

I am going to assume that you have seen the movie Clue because if you haven’t then what are you doing sitting here reading my blog for goodness sake it is on YouTube go watch that first. It’s no problem, I’ll wait.


In the movie Clue, as in the board game, there is a Murder(s) or Apparent Murder(s), a bunch of suspects with different motivations and weaponry, a few red herrings, and a ticking clock. These are all part and parcel of your typical Mystery Plotline. When The Murder happens, the lights go out, we hear noises, a gun shot, and then voila, lights, camera, dead guy on the floor. As the movie progresses, we slowly learn what may have happened under the cover of darkness – but everyone has a different interpretation.

The scene I’ve been working on today is similar, though the lights don’t go out. It’s a scene that is central to the Mystery Plotline that my first-person protagonist is trying to unravel. It’s an event that occurred before the start of the book. But she wasn’t there. She needs to eventually know what happened to understand the Full Implications and Who the Bad Guys Really Are but all she has to go on is the word of several witnesses/participants who showed up at different times. One or two of them have motives to lie or direct blame on someone else. Clues and Important Information get exchanged, but not everyone knows what they mean at the time.

So obviously I, as the writer, need to know what actually happened. This is harder than it sounds. There are certain details I want to be true: Person B shows up after Person  A and misinterprets her actions; Person C tells Person A to take the Clues to another location; several Persons need to wind up dead. But working out the the order in which people die and, hence, the logistics of how information is exchanged, is crazy hard. Especially since some of my characters can talk to dead people. And the dead can often fight as brutally as the living so some of my victims need to be injured or knocked out instead. There’s a coat that is important but I can’t figure out how to get it off of one character and on to another while at least one of them is alive and keep everyone in the scene together.

This is all coming to a head in Chapter 14 because I want my protagonist to return to The Scene of the Crime where More Information is Revealed. I just have to know what that information is, both in it’s entirety and what she learns at this juncture versus later.

In Clue, Tim Curry helpfully runs everyone through various scenarios of Whodunnit. I wish he would come to my house and help me with this. All I’ve got is a notebook with lots of brainstorming ideas and some fledgling scene starts.

(Oh, and a lasagna. That’s not a metaphor; I made an actual lasagna. Sometimes it helps to switch gears when the story juju isn’t working. Didn’t help much but at least now I have dinner made. Was worth a shot.)



Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Three or four years ago I sent the start of a story to my friend K and then promptly forgot about it. This past fall when we were walking climbing over train tracks to look at St. John’s Wort, she asked me “Hey, did you ever finish that ghost story?” and it took several questions for me to realize what she was talking about. I mean, of course it is a ghost story… it has ghosts in it. But I had never thought of it that way. To me it had always been the story that started “The trucks arrived at dusk…” and toyed with the question “What if Death was a place?”

Dear readers (if there are any of you out there), I have been writing and it feels good. I’ve been alternating between this ghostly story and a story about robots. I’m taking a fiction workshop through Adult Education which has been a great chance for me to exercise my analytical writing/critique muscles. In fact, I’m even submitting my ghost story for critique, so we will see how that goes.

I had a long heart-to-heart with a new friend the other evening and well, we covered a range of subjects both personal and hypothetical and she said something that made me think, hard and painfully, about the way I make (or don’t make) decisions. She pointed out that being “easy going” can sometimes translate into “conflict avoidance” which means while it may seem easier to let decisions/arguments/opinions slide, it could really be a symptom of trying to please others and ignoring ones own wants. I sat with this hard truth for a couple of days and somewhere in there it clicked for me that yes, I do avoid conflict and yes, I often do take the easy route of putting others wants above my own. But that is because my wants — or my  basic, core want — provoke conflict in me. So I avoid my own conflict and also avoid my own want. And that want and conflict is — ding ding ding, that’s right — writing.

How silly, right? How foolish. And how unfortunate. So as I’m looking down the long scope of the next few years of my life and the direction I see my life going, there are so many other great and important things that can happen that if I don’t give writing the place in my life that I want soon, this pattern of avoidance will just continue until… well, until I’ve forgotten what this is, what this is all about.

Greg said recently “I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand how closely writing is tied to your identity,” and I’m not sure I will either. It just is. It’s scary to think of a life where I have neglected writing because it’s so much easier to let it slide. I’m not saying that things like family and career and health and giving can’t or shouldn’t also be at the forefront, but my ideal would be to find a way to integrate everything — to have writing be my career, a way to provide for my family, and a way to give back. That’s a lot to ask… a small part of it even would be nice. But this is not a life that is handed to you. It is a life that is earned through grabbing it by the proverbial horns and staring into its fiery eyes without blinking.

So I’m writing. Not every day, but almost. I have friends that are doing NaNoWriMo and while I’m not sure I have the wherewithall to truly tackle that properly this year, I hope to pace some of them in the practice of writing every day, even if it’s just something like this blog post.

When I was working on my ghost story I found myself in this amazingly immersive place. You know, The Zone. That mental space where I am surrounded on all sides by my story, the taste and smell of it, the colors and the characters. It was a profoundly satisfying place to be. I plan to visit frequently.