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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Impatient Characters


Sometimes, the story is carried by dialogue, and at other times the story is breezing through required narrative. Then something happens. You are thinking about a certain way to phrase something and can’t come up with the exact way to describe it. What shade of blue? There are hundreds to choose from. Cobalt? Turquoise? Cornflower?  Are the trees the color of junipers or multi-colored like jasper? Is it a golden or yellow sunset?  Pink or peach flowers? Lavender or Lilac?

Sometimes, the details can be left to the reader’s imagination. Everyone knows that roses are red. But not your roses. These are special roses and you have to figure out how to describe each petal. The way they might glisten with morning dew. The way the sun has darkened the edges during a heatwave.

Simply greens and blues?
Lapis? Blueberry? Navy?
 Teal? Sage? Chartreuse? 
Maybe there’s a wretched phone call. It takes you away from your manuscript for several days. Possibly weeks. Even months.

By the time you return to the story, you feel different about everything. You like the plot, but your characters, the ones you invented, have turned into mush. You can’t relate to them, and you’re not even sure you like them anymore.

Yesterday, they woke you from a deep sleep, with all sorts of promises. They are willing to die for you, if only you’ll get back to writing. They become sort of dramatic at four in the morning.

So, you humor them, at least until the next time you get up from your desk and walk away. You write two hundred words, maybe more. Your characters are back with a vengeance. They are stronger, better looking and sexier. It’s like you needed to go away and return to make them better. Then it happens again. The message, the letter, the appointment that creates a hiatus.

It’s four in the morning and the fiends are hopping around again, looking for a way to drag you back to your writing chair. Day after day, you begin to hide under your pillow. Stronger now, they have strange, often scary ideas that make you mad. Tired of it, you mentally threaten to delete them from your hard drive. They gather at the edge of the mattress and sob. They don’t deserve you. Let them wait.

Friday, July 5, 2019

The Wise Grasshopper




Grasshopper,
this bundled month,
I made homemade apricot jam rather
than spend time on edits.
Editing my book is like a patriotic parade,
with funereal slowness.
A sad march.
Characters are intimate friends.
I’m sensitive to their needs.
They want me to linger.

But I’m going swimming.
Plug in the fan,
turn on the air.
I’m crocheting a blanket.
Reading a book with dreary characters.
Local play rehearsals are my new diversion.
Town had a historic bell-ringing celebration.
Glad I could make it.
There’s the woman’s group,
the city meeting at Elks,
and of course,
church.

Jittery dogs need a walk.
Reruns on television.
It doesn’t seem fair to repeat quiz shows,
though my answers sound impressive.
I’d rather be an ear to a friend.
Their drama better than mine.
I’m not complaining.
But there’s something about this summer,
That’s kept me praying.

A sudden shift in normal--
perhaps just the alignment of the stars--
in the warmed-up sky.
One neighbor sailed away forever.
Our home shook on the Fourth of July.
You were here,
 as if to warn us,
centered on the gate.

Anyway, labels.
I need to make stickers for jam jars.

Go work on my manuscript?
What is wrong with you?
No wonder I took your photo.