Fried Egg On Teflon: Holding a Story
Okay, maybe I should have used a different image. Picture a bear scooping salmon out of a stream. Or rather, picture a bear trying to scoop salmon out of a stream. That was me yesterday and today, trying to grab hold of pieces of a story that has been swimming through my mind for a couple of years. You see, I started a project about three years ago. My lunch time project, I called it. No matter what other book I was working on (ORLEANS, as it turned out, for much of that time), I also worked on another story. But I only wrote it long hand, and I only wrote at lunch time. You could find me sitting outside a fast food Mexican plate eating way too many chicken nachos, and scribbling on a yellow legal pad. I wrote without an outline (unheard of for me, like parachuting without a parachute!), and just asked myself “what would I do next if I was her? If I was him?” And I wrote a book. I typed it up, patted myself on the back, and gave it to a friend who pointed out it wasn’t a book so much as a novella, and what did I mean by this, that or the other?
Clearly, she hadn’t been eating the nachos. So, my brillance was just a diamond in the rough. And I worked on it some more and at the end of a while I had my version of a noir novel. It excited me and I thought, why not write a cycle? Why not write an American Gothic novel to go with it, since it had some of those undertones? Only this time I’d go whole hog and have it all– the big spooky house, the characters drifting into madness, the heat, the confusion, the violence. I even have a title.
But I don’t work that close to the nacho place anymore, and I can’t seem to find my legal pads and, if you read this blog you know I’m supposed to be working on Something Else.
But, yesterday, I found myself on the freeway driving past my location and I thought about the story. A lot. And decided I’d outline it this weekend. If only I could get a grip on more than just the idea of it. A gist is not a story. It’s a gist.
Sometimes you see images of a story. At least I do. Pictures flash in my head. If I’m very still and have a pen and pad (or a receipt or gum wrapper) I can capture those images and coalsce them into a story. And then, sometimes, you get the flashes, you have the pad, and all that comes out is a shopping list of what you want the story to be.
So, instead of an outline, here it is Sunday night and I am left with an image of an egg sliding out of a teflon-coated frying pan. This is my brain. It’s empty. Maybe that’s a sign. Time to replenish the creative well. I will try to look at art this weekend, and hear music, and maybe read ABSALOM! ABSALOM! again (that Faulkner, what a nut).
And maybe one day my brilliant cycle of Southern Californian Gothic Noir will be a real live salmon/egg/story on a plate in front of you.
In the meantime, back to that Something Else. I swear, it’s coming along. (It is!)