Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Alas! she loves another

Dear Dragonheart,

We’ve been going steady for a while now, and I know we’ve had our ups and downs. I had a couple of flings with short stories, and there was that long separation a few months back. Things were a bit rocky there while we were getting reacquainted but then, I don’t know, I changed, or you changed, and suddenly we were in love again, just like that first flush of romance when it all began.

You were once again the only story for me, and I’m sure you felt the same. We were meant for each other, and it seemed that nothing could ever part us again. Only ...

Don’t get mad. It’s not you, it’s me. Me and my BAD AS (Bloody Awful Deficient Attention Span). I just have this problem with commitment.

I’ve started seeing someone else. No, no, nothing’s happened yet. We haven’t even held hands. We’re just talking. But this new story’s so luscious, so full of ripe promise, that I’m all giddy and starry-eyed just thinking about it. It’s making it hard to honour those vows I made you, to see it through to the bitter end.

You’ve got to help me, Dragonheart. Be scintillating. Sweep me off my feet with the dizzying turns of your plot. Pull all those hanging threads together into an ending so wondrous that I can resist the lure of the New Story. Work with me here, baby.



Sooo. Remember how I decided not to do Nano again this year? Yep. I lied. Thought of the most splendiferously brilliant idea the other day, and now I just want Dragonheart to be over so I can go play with my shiny new idea.

Of course, I realise it’s only shiny because it’s new, and by the time I’m halfway through I’ll think it’s the most appalling drivel I’ve ever written, but still. Even knowing that, the first flush of romance is still exciting.

It may even be a good thing for poor Dragonheart. I’m at 82,000 words now, still struggling on, but the ending can’t be too much further, can it? I’m toying with my new idea, doing a little research, but only after I write every day on Dragonheart. I’m determined to finish it now I’m this close, and if I can manage it by the end of September that still leaves me a month to plan before Nano kicks off.

Besides, Drama Duck wants to do Nano this year too, so I can hardly leave her to do it on her own, can I?

The sacrifices I am prepared to make for my children ...

Monday, 24 August 2009

A family of comedians

I am living with a family of comedians.

Evidence the first:

Baby Duck had a haircut on Friday. Our friend who was cutting his hair asked if he’d like hair the colour of hers, but he declined, saying her colour looked old. Pretending outrage, our friend said, “Just wait till you’re forty! I’ll tell you ‘hey, you’re looking pretty old now’."

He said, “And I’ll say ‘you still look older than me!’ "

Evidence the second:

Someone who shall remain nameless, but she’s my middle child and her name starts with Demon and ends with Duck, defaced my menu board while I was out yesterday.

(What, doesn’t everyone write the week’s menu on a whiteboard in their kitchen? What do you mean, I’m anal?)

She had carefully written up the menu as follows:

Monday: takeaway
Tuesday: takeaway
Wednesday: takeaway
Thursday: takeaway
Friday: takeaway
Saturday: takeaway
Sunday: out

Only the spelling mistakes have been changed to protect the innocent.

Evidence the third:

The girls went iceskating yesterday while I was out. I think that was pretty brave of me. If I say that I was imagining severed fingers lying twitching on the ice, you will think my worrywart gene is showing again. In my defence I offer that I used to work with a lovely man who was missing a couple of fingers because of an iceskating accident as a child.

I mentioned to Drama Duck last night that I’d been a little stressed about them going skating.

"It was fine,” she said dismissively. “I’ve still got most of my fingers."

Evidence the fourth:

And the reason I was not available to personally supervise the safety of my daughters’ precious pinkies?

My brother rang a couple of weeks ago to say he was going away for a few days. He usually does Mum’s grocery shopping for her, and wanted me to cover for him. Not a problem, since I usually visit Mum once a week anyway, but just to make sure I wouldn’t forget, I wrote “Mum shopping” on the calendar that hangs on the back of the en suite door.

(My friends find it amusing when they ask me if I’m free on a certain date and I tell them I have to go check on the toilet door.)

This morning I got out of the shower and found that underneath “Mum shopping” the Carnivore had written “Could not find a decent Mum".

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

100 ways to say "tree"

Yesterday’s post reminded me of another travelling game that has gone down in family legend.

We were driving along a dull stretch of freeway, with nothing but trees either side of the road as far as the eye could see – and the ducklings wanted to play I Spy. So we came up with a variation, where the answer was always the same, but the challenge was in thinking up a different description every time.

“I spy with my little eye something that has a brown trunk.”
“I spy with my little eye something that has green leaves.”
“… something that birds build nests in.”
“… something you can make paper out of.”
“… something loggers cut down.”
“… something that starts with T and ends in E.”

And so on. It kept the ducklings amused for a good half hour, all yelling out “TREE” every time at the tops of their lungs, and we came up with 30 or 40 ways to describe a tree. It got harder as we went along, of course, till we were really racking our brains trying to come up with something different.

It occurred to me this morning that this is good exercise for a writer’s brain. So often we reach for the same old descriptions – “brown trunk and green leaves” – instead of pushing a bit further to get “something you can make paper out of” or even further to “something featuring heavily in a lot of creation mythology”.

My first drafts are full of brown trunks and green leaves. My characters shrug and snort and nod nearly every time they open their mouths. Their hearts pound in their chests and leap into their throats every time they are alarmed (which is a lot of the time). There are grim looks by the bucketload and so much crossing and uncrossing of legs when they sit down it’s a wonder they haven’t all got cramps in their calves.

But that’s what revisions are for. Karen Miller says first drafts are just her telling herself the story. Alexandra Sokoloff had a great post a while back titled “Your first draft is always going to suck”. It helps to remember that when I’m feeling that my writing is registering too high on the crapometer. This is just me working out what happens. The time for adjusting subplots and foreshadowing is not now. Elegant prose is not now.

Now is just brown trunk after brown trunk, till I’ve built a whole forest to play in. Now is the painful “but what happens next?”.

So, time to stop playing on the blog and go find out. Damn trees.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Telling tales

Mum lives about an hour’s drive away. It’s an easy drive, along motorways and freeways, but monotonous, particularly for small passengers. To pass the time last weekend I suggested we take turns telling a story, with each person taking up the tale where the last one left off.

In fact we had time for half a dozen stories in the two hours there and back, featuring such things as giant hairy flying cucumbers, pink elephants that turned into long-lost brothers and cows who were “dairy godmothers”. I believe that pun was snitched from a real story but it gave me a good laugh at the time.

It was fascinating to hear what each duckling came up with and observe their different personalities at work. Demon Duck, our little perfectionist, was very hesitant. A couple of times she got carried away by the story, but mostly she had a very quick go before passing the responsibility on to her sister. I think she was afraid of “getting it wrong”.

Drama Duck, otherwise known as “Little Miss Talk Underwater”, was in her element. Her turns were very long and inventive, and long after her brother and sister had dropped out of the game she was still eager to continue.

Baby Duck surprised me. He eventually got bored – he is only six, after all – but his efforts were quite creative and coherent. Once I thought he’d gone off into a different story altogether, but he brought it back around and tied it into the main thread. He’d only introduced a different point of view. And his grasp of storytelling conventions was quite firm. When it was his turn to start a new story he began:

“Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, in a land far, far away … there lived a little lizard named Fred.”