A quick post today. I wanted to share something I tried.
Hey, we all get stuck at some point. We reach a scene that just doesn’t work or a character that isn’t right, somehow, or some voice gets stuck in our head that says, go clean the spiders out the garage.
So, that happened to me yesterday. And the day before.
In both cases, I got out of my slump by harkening back to a book I read a while ago. Ok, to be honest, I was wondering around the office biting my fingernails and looking all writerly when I saw the book, but whatever. The book was The Weekend Novelist Writes A Mystery by Robert J. Ray and Jack Remick
They argue that you should always start with your killer first. And one of the suggestions was interview your antagonist after he’s been caught.
So I took this idea a bit farther.
What if, when you got stuck on something, you stopped and did a quick interview? What if you didn’t just think of interviewing the antagonist? What if you looked at anything and everything? Like location.
Me : “Hey, Hell’s Kitchen.”
“Ah, yeah, listen, I don’t get you. Can you tell me something about yourself?”
“I ain’t what I used to be. Got the name from long ago. It kinda just stuck, you know.”
“So you’re not really all about kitchens or hell?”
“You want a punch in the face?”
“Not really, and at the risk of getting my nose mashed in, what do you smell like?”
“Seriously. What’s your most favourite smell?”
“Kabobs from the Afghan joint off of 9th. Red door. That smell of roasted meat and slightly burnt onions, it’s heaven.”
“So we’re going kitchen smells?”
“You want more? What about Wilo’s Flower Shop that’s at war with the hot dog vendor that parks his food cart right outside. Kinda hard to smell the roses, right?”
“Sure. I guess. Tell me about your favourite place.”
“Easy 39th st and 9th avenue.”
“What’s not? It’s the world’s biggest flea market. Everything’s there. Reminds me of the old days when I was really called Hell’s Kitchen and not Clinton or Midtown West.”
“So you hate what people call you now?”
“Wouldn’t you? I got a proud heritage, you know. I been here a while and now, all of a sudden, people don’t call me by name, like there was something wrong with me, like they don’t love me no more.”
(This goes on for far too long so let me cut to the chase.)
However, by doing this I had several revelations.
First, I may need to see a psychiatrist.
Second, great writers make location a character and by chatting with Mr Kitchen, I began the thought process that lead me deeper into that part of NY.
Lastly, Hell’s Kitchen, AKA Clinton, seems a bit unsure of himself and yes, he’s a he. He’s also a bit of a jerk, and kind of unforgiving, you know, but he wants to avoid the future. Maybe he’s fighting against it in his own way.
So, could I use all this in a story?
You bet. I found that by talking to my city, I began to think about it on a whole new way. Not only did I find more intersesting places, but if you think about a place having a personality, then I would think the lights wouldn’t always work cuz the city’s a little pissed off. Or the sewer line constantly breaks. Or buildings have odd cracks.
I get this may not work for sane people, but hey, if you’re stuck, go interview someone or something. The hero’s car. The Antagonist’s mother. The dog who loves to poo on the victim’s lawn. The mail carrier who delivers mail.
It’s just a different way of getting a new way to look at something and maybe that look will inspire you to get bum back into chair and write.
Whadda think? Am I crazy?