Writing prompt to adult students: Who or what ghosts do you carry within yourself? And I ended up writing about Choice (backstory: This is a novel that started out as a short story several years ago. Basically, a 14 year old boy deals with the sudden death of his older brother. In the original version, the brother was out joyriding with a friend, stuck his head out of the car while it was going about 100 mph and was decapitated, the end of the story was a weird “ritual” out in BLM land around Reno so the brother can stop haunting the friend who was driving – so many of my friends said “I didn’t know you wrote horror” that I ended up changing the story radically and it’s now grown into a full-fledged novel. The brother is killed while joyriding, he is not decapitated, the ritual still happens.) So, I realize after this ghost prompt that everyone in the novel is haunted by the brother’s death – not as in ghosts appearing in the middle of the night, but in emotional terms. So Choice is a ghost story after all. And that’s very, very cool to me, that the original impulse of the story still comes through even though it has moved away from its original form, that the impulse now exists on a more symbolic level.
Reading Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell) – convergent and divergent thinking – convergent is being able to look at patterns and figure out what comes next in a sequence; divergent is being able to do things like finding as many uses for a pencil or brick as possible or forming as many words as you can from a longer word. I excel at divergent thinking and suck at convergent – this may explain why I’m really great at the brainstorming phase of a project – thinking about my characters, the story, imagery, etc – and have a really difficult time with endings. Endings need me to add up all the patterns and choose the way to sum them up and move them into something larger.
I want friends who have cool names like ‘Unterferth’ and ‘Magnus’ instead I have friends with nice normal names like ‘Jennifer’ and ‘Sue,’ even my dog’s name is ‘Maggie’ (she came to us named) instead of something more interesting like ‘Cabal’ or ‘Stylus.’ I wish to seem exotic instead of normal. I think I spent most of my teens years trying to figure out what ‘normal’ was and then how to become it. Now I’ve succeeded and it’s really, really boring, and I don’t know how to do anything else. Why this seems important to write down, I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to write a story with a dog named “Stylus” in it.
A pantoum with a scene between Matt and his mother (from Choice)– I have a really difficult time keeping them in a room together because they don’t have anything to say to one another. Repeated lines of dialogue, talking cross purposes. Hm. Possibilities.
Wrote and rewrote the scene. In absolute terms, it’s not brilliant, but what happened in the writing of it was interesting. It forced me to keep the characters’ dialogue at odds with each other in order to keep the tension. In my first draft, I had the characters respond directly to each other and that was boring. By keeping them at odds with each other, it worked much better. I also found that I had to alter the form a bit. It worked better to have the fourth line of the “stanza” be repeated as the next line of dialogue. What also happened was that last line came to be the power position in the conversation, the one that was directing the flow of the scene so I brought in an incidental character (a grocery store clerk) to be able to change the power structure and give Matt’s mom the upperhand in the conversation. As an exercise, this worked really well for exploring these two characters. I often have trouble with their dialogue because there is so much that isn’t being said between them. This structure gave me a way to play with them and what they are and aren’t saying to each other. And as rough as the dialogue is, it helped me find a way into this relationship that I didn’t have before.