Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How I know I'm a writer

You're back in high school, and you have to write a report overnight on something to do with the representation of sea life in literature. You choose The Island of the Blue Dolphins, even though it's way below grade level, because you're short on time, and hey, there are dolphins in it.

But whenever you open the book, another story starts playing on screen -- a TV screen, the computer screen where you're typing your paper, the dream screen in your head? -- yes, that's probably right. This story's called Feedback, or something like that, something ominous and hinting at a technopocalyse.

Two Russian tweens -- twins? A boy and a girl run over a sand dune, kicking up clouds of sand and wearing costumes fit for Commedia dell'Arte. The girl has on navy bloomers and a floppy red collar. The boy's hair's cut just like the girl's. They're running away from something, or are they just playing?

Back in high school, this variation on a recurring dream continues. You've failed to attend one class all year -- usually history or science. You need to visit the office to see if it's not too late to drop a class (and is that even allowed in high school?) so that your negligence won't wreck your GPA, and by extension, the rest of your life.

Feedback's way more interesting. You leave the framing dream of high school behind, returning to it only when Feedback reaches a point of high suspense. Turns out some robber baron on a yacht got surrounded by police boats on the water. They killed one of his men, and the callous joke he made at his dead man's expense showed he's not someone you want to mess with. He takes the children onto his boat. From this point on Feedback's a nightmarish fight for survival. The boatman's a sadist. He wants the tweens to suffer before they die. The details are many and gory, but this isn't a nightmare, because some part of your brain's still in charge of the dream.

You go through variations on this theme. Should other adults help to rescue the tweens? Or does the girl do it by her own cunning? Should we recognize the boatman's malice before the tweens or discover it with them? How about that scene where they ran over the sand dunes? What do sand dunes have to do with Russia? Maybe they should run instead through a red brick square with climbing gardens. Just before the boat arrives, they do a dance on a red-black checkerboard built into the walkway. They're street performers, dancing for cash. Probably they're orphans. Stories about orphans are always good.

Yes, I edit my dreams while I'm having them.

I did 1,488 yesterday on a NEW project. Sort of new. I'm taking one of the screenplays I wrote while I lived in LA and writing the story as fiction. This will be interesting for me since I've rarely had as clear an idea of the story going in. I expect it will change -- a lot -- and that's good. I think it will be fun to work on though since I know the ghost of a story at least is there. It's called, incidentally, The Storybook Girl, though it's not autobiographical in the slightest. We'll see if I can deal with using that title for both a work of fiction and my blog.

Currently reading Spacer and Rat by Margaret Bechard

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