Friday, August 31, 2007

WRITING STUFF: PLAYING THE "WHAT IF" GAME

I'm stuck again on my ms - this is a recurring problem and it makes me restless and irritated and sends me out looking for something - anything - to do that doesn't involve writing.

So I play the "what if" game. I make myself play at least ten times a go. Here it is, as I played it this morning:

What if my MC, a nice middle-aged lady sorta like me only much more brave when it comes to looking in peoples' windows or talking to strangers or going off into the woods alone at night than I am, knocks on the door of the dilapidated house and:

1. Nothing much happens. No one's home.

2. The little girl who lost her dog answers, is delighted to be reunited with Fluffy, and the music for happy endings starts to play.

3. No one answers, so she looks in the window and sees that the house is empty.

4. No one answers, so she looks in the window and sees some pretty awful furniture and a living room really ready for Candace Olson's Divine Design or Trading Spaces. Clear plastic slipcovers are on the 1970's orange crushed velvet couch, and an overflowing olive green ceramic ashtray is still smoldering. A paisley caftan covers the part of the body visible on the floor. A pair of scarred and veiny legs stick out from it, with ugly, misshapen toes painted in chipped layers of Revlon's Fire 'n' Ice nail polish.

5. No one answers, so she looks in the window and sees the words "Go Away Doggies" scrawled in blood across the far wall. A tiny headless mannequin slumps in a corner, awash in more blood. At least it looks like a mannequin...


6. No one answers, and the front windows are curtained, so she goes around to the back door, which is wide open, and swinging off its hinges.


7. No one answers, so she goes around to the back. There is no back door, and the two small windows are high off the ground and appear to be painted shut. The unpainted cellar door is chained and locked with an old rusty padlock. She hears the whimpering of a small animal, and realizes it is not the little dog in her arms. She puts the little dog down and it runs through the waist-high weeds, yipping at the noise which seems to be coming from a shed.

8. A pretty lady in an apron opens the door and smiles. Our MC is swept in on a cloud of fresh coffee and Chanel 19 into a spotless living room. Music plays softly and the coffee table is set with an old-fashioned coffee service, china plates and freshly-baked scones. Sunlight streams through the windows, and our MC wonders why the outside of the house is such a mess when the inside looks like the cover of Better Homes and Gardens circa 1959.


9. A sound of crashing and shouting is heard, then a woman in sweats with her hair tied back in a scarf answers the door. "Well? What do you want?" she demands. "If you're selling something, just turn your butt around right now and get the hell out!" The woman looks behind her into the dim, foul-smelling gloom. "And you just stay right where you are Missy, if you don't want another taste of that switch! Little bastard, you drive me crazy!"

10. She waits for a few minutes, then knocks again. A shuffling noise can be heard inside, a sort of slow dragging. Then the locks on the door are undone slowly, one by one. She counts five. That's a lot of locks for one run-down little house at the edge of nowhere, she thinks. What do you need all those locks out here for? The door creaks a little as it opens, just a tight hinge, not a full-fledged Halloween scary noise. But enough to give her an involuntary shudder.

Okay, if that doesn't get you started, I don't know what will. Which one do you think I went with? Or maybe I just kept on going and wrote something completely different.

The point is, I wrote something. And once you get going, you just keep on until you run out of steam or have to go to the bathroom.


THREE BEAUTIFUL THINGS

We put some low-voltage lighting in the back this week - the timber bamboo lit from underneath looks beautiful.


I checked the calendar - only four more weeks at this job, then off to new things.

We had a short but intense electrical storm Wednesday night. It is a highly unusual thing to happen here, but the sky was very beautiful. And the little dogs got to come in and hide under the covers.

6 comments:

Bernita said...

Oh Lord,I try to do that...and then I can't decide which plot avenue to follow!
It does get one past the "what" - even if it's not much help with the "which."

Kate Thornton said...

Haha, Bernita, that's true! I found myself going for several of these, none of which, by the way, have made it into the story!

Karen L. Alaniz said...

You are a far more organized writer than I. That's for sure. At least you have a plan for those moments when you don't know which way to go. I just keep writing until I figure it out and then go back and cut out the parts that didn't lead me there.

Someone, somewhere, at some time said that only 50% of what you write or know about your character actually makes it into the final draft. I think it's all good because though the exact words don't make it into the story, the ideas still follow along.

Did that make any sense at all?

Karen (Lavinia from AW)

Kate Thornton said...

Karen -that's so true! I only seem oganized, though - this plan works *most* of the time. And you're right about not all detail making it into the final draft.

writtenwyrdd said...

I'd bet on the shed, but several are evocative.

Kate Thornton said...

Writtenwyrrd - The shed is a very good bet! It was my favorite, too - but I may have somethimg else up my sleeve!