Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not Much Today, Either

I am getting better - still can't type much - and am off to the doctor this afternoon. The first day I couldn't even handle the mouse. By yesterday I was pretty comfortable using the mouse, but typing, hanging up clothes, and eating with my right hand had to be done with great care, and I can't dress myself past a certain point without assistance. Today I tried unfolding and cutting out some pattern pieces, but I don't have enough fine motor control.

My mom called when she read Sunday's post, worrying about me. Apparently the first thing she thought of was "car wreck." I promise I will call my mom if I'm ever in a car wreck, assuming that I can. When she heard the actual symptoms she thought "bursitis" and that does seem probable.

But the car wreck notion is exactly the kind of thing I'm always going on about. We get a tiny piece of information and immediately start filling in the blanks with the most dramatic ideas possible, regardless of their likelihood. That's how the storymaking process begins. And all some people do with it is worry themselves over nothing much. I didn't mean to worry anybody.

Okay, I think that's enough typing for right now.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Not Today, Sorry

Today's garage sale is cancelled due to being stoned out of my mind on pain meds and still too sore to type for protracted periods.

We apologize for the inconvenience. Please exit to the right and consider visiting some of the other fine blots in the links you will pass there.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Idea Garage Sale: Schroedinger's Note

This one's from my husband, Damon. So you see it's not just writers who do this!

We both just read The Future of Us, by Jay Asher and Carolyn Macker, and he was thinking. You have one of those high school notes where the writer gives the recipient a multiple choice question and the recipient ticks one blank and passes the note back. The question is a typical high school one - go to homecoming with me yes/no, free for lunch yes/no, like the same person as me yes/no - but the answer has repercussions.

This note is in a box. Until the box is opened, both answers are ticked. The person whose job it is to open the box can't bear to do so, and will be living the repercussions of both answers alternately until the box is opened.

An advantage of making this a high school story is that certain events are locked in - the homecoming dance will occur on schedule, the protagonist is already committed to certain extracurriculars and classes, the parents' job and marital milestones and difficulties will not be changed by the protagonist's behavior - so that it's a simple matter to examine the different emotional repercussions of each answer and the ripple effect of each within the peer group within a locked-in framework. Sooner or later, though, a situation will arise in which the way a major decision is made, one that follows logically from the original note, and from that point the future is locked in - the protagonist can't have it both ways anymore. To be fully effective, both futures should have notable upsides and downsides and the decision should be a lot harder than the question posed by the original note.

The problem here is that the logical person to open the box is not the person on whom the decision depends, but the person who asked the question in the first place. Which is all kinds of messed up - by asking the question, he's deflected the decision onto someone else and having done that, he can't very well take the power away. You could change it so that the object in the box is a wish object, but this removes the core of the idea, the thing that makes it interesting. So that's no good.

I suggested that the protagonist could be so cripplingly indecisive that he makes all his urgent decisions based on a coin flip or dice toss, in which case you've got not a box, but a dice cup clamped down on top of the fateful roll; and as long as Indeterminate Teen doesn't lift the cup, both futures are happening. This spectacularly dysfunctional character quirk then becomes a major element in the story, though, and dictates the character arc.

One thing that occurs to me now is that the note could be intercepted by some third party with a stake in the communication, but it's hard to imagine what that stake could be or how it could justify holding onto the note.

Maybe this is soluble, but between us, we haven't cracked it yet.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Idea Garage Sale: Never Going Away

I found this note buried among a bunch of stuff from the mid-80s.

The best time travel stories are those in which all times coexist - notably Green Knowe; also Traveler in Time. Requirements are an old, history-laden place, quite private, in which the movement from one era to another is not readily discernible. The place is the magic. The only examples I can think of are English, but I get the feel of them in San Antonio, and such a story about San Antonio is a natural and must. Eras - 1840s, 60s, 18th century; modern; 20s. Age group - 7 to 14

It's odd that I still haven't quite done this. Possibly because the sense of moving from era to era while going about my business has been a part of my daily existence for so long. Switching Well is as close as I've come.

The point is - it's not just San Antonio that this can be done with. The past is present everywhere. Ask any archeologist or historian.

So here's a challenge for you. What happens when you peel back the layer on your own home's history? It's not true that there was "nothing" there before your particular subdivision went up. The ground underneath it is billions of years old, and I guarantee you people have been moving across your landscape for a long, long time.

Besides, animals have stories, too.

Yeah, I know, you were expecting a Mother's Day story idea. I don't think on the Hallmark calendar. But Hi, Mom!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Just Read It

Yesterday the weather was sitting on my head, but it was okay. I had a new Diana Wynne Jones book.

Not new fiction. A collection of essays, Reflections, came from Amazon UK - anybody who thinks I'm waiting till September to get a DWJ book I can have in May by paying extra shipping has another think coming.

It was one of those days when print slides away from my eyes a lot and I either have to pace myself with easy housework or give up and play sims all day; but Jones's prose has the remarkable quality of being much more readable when I'm having vision problems than other people's prose is. (DWJ was dyslexic, which I hadn't known before; I wonder if one reason she wrote so well was that she had to make the prose transparent enough to read the meaning through even when the words were wriggling around?) I had to stop periodically instead of shoveling it down with both hands like I usually do, but it's all read now. Some of it I'd read before, in photocopies or online or in other collections around the house. A lot of it I hadn't.

Y'all should read this book. Anything I could possibly say as a blogger is already said, much better, in it, but I don't mind being upstaged by a master. Having my own thought processes upstaged by Diana Wynne Jones is more invigorating than any number of pep talks.

I feel like maybe I can get back to Pellin now. You know, the story I wrote about awhile ago, with the memory loss and the cranky male hero that isn't going to make the agent search any easier.

I also need to get queries back in the mail, but important as that is I can never seem to do it when I'm not writing something else. It's the only way to get my drive back.

Now if I can figure out how Pellin's going to figure out what's going on with him...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Idea Garage Sale: The Glass House

Okay, we have errands to do on the way to gaming today, so let's make this quick.

Short story I thought of a long time ago, before I knew I was a children's writer. Young woman who's consciously given up her dreams of a creative life, "facing reality," partly to please a young man she's no longer with, but she still has the life she got herself into for his sake. Poky apartment, soul-sucking day job. On an impulse, she buys a glass house from a flea market glassblower. After she gets it home and has lived with it, and had dreams set in it, for awhile, she realizes that it's a near-replica of a dream-house she inhabited mentally in high school. She probably drew plans of it, played at decorating the rooms and planting the garden while looking through catalogs, that sort of thing. In the dreams the house is also inhabited by the imaginary lover from those days, the idealized guy she wanted to meet. Though physically he looks a lot like her ex, in all the important ways he's the polar opposite. Of course, since he's a dream figure, he's also part of herself.

How exactly the glass house and the dream lover enable her to recognize the creative possibilities of real life I never worked out in any detail. Nowadays the whole concept seems self-indulgent. And could a glass blower make a suitably elaborate house, that a woman in her situation would still find affordable? Maybe not, unless he was a magician, in which case - magicians always want something.

Which makes this a much longer story.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Don't Ask Me, I Just Notice Things

Isn't it odd, how few people take an accurate view of their own activities?

"I'm not a writer," One says. "I only keep a journal, and a couple of blogs, one for knitting and one for my game...and a couple of newsgroups I'm a regular on." Exclusive of e-mail contacts and writing memos at work, this "not writing" she does adds up to a production of about 10,000 words per week. One is a writer; One is writing. What she's not doing is striving after publication, and what do you want to bet that's because she thinks she's not a writer, not because her writing isn't publishable?

"I'm a writer," Two says. "I go to all the conferences and subscribe to all the blogs and I can't find an agent." But if you ask to see what Two has written, she won't show you anything. Instead she'll talk about the 15-volume paranormal romance/family saga she has planned. Two is not a writer. Two has a hobby of attending writing conferences and reading writing blogs, but in actual writing she produces maybe seven hundred words a year. She types out more than that, but mostly they're a rechurning and rearranging of words she's already written. She repeats herself a lot. If she does have a work in progress, it has been the same work at the same approximate level of progress for the last 15 years.

It does not puzzle me that people have an ideal image in their head of what a real writer (or artist, or seamstress, or knitter, or parent, or...) is, and can't bring themselves to think of themselves in those terms if they don't match the ideal image - which, face it, nobody does. That's why it's called an ideal. We all do this. For some of us ideals are goals we strive for and for some of us they're impossible cloud castles whose impossibility both oppresses us and frees us from the labor of trying to reach them.

It's the other class of people, the ones who assume that they've met the ideal by fiat; that by labeling themselves as a writer (or artist, or ...) and socializing with writers and talking about writing, they've become a writer and the actual work is doing itself somehow. I don't understand either how they think this is going to work, or how they can maintain their belief in the assumed identity in the face of all the stuff that they don't do.

Fortunately there's a middle ground of people who can see themselves clearly and adapt their behavior accordingly. But it's hard to get there, and harder to stay. The evolutionary benefit of this behavior is not obvious to me; though it's true that, in a social setting, there are certain ideal identities that, if assumed and imposed with sufficient force on the people around you, do provide a distinct advantage. A lot of politics through history has boiled down to people with delusions of competence taking credit for the actions of blind chance or of uncharismatic people with real competence. But in daily life it's annoying as heck and ought to make us more likely to starve or be murdered by someone who is frustrated by our continual failure to produce anything solid.

People are weird. In the end, we just have to live with that.