Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Have Fun, Will Create

by Mike Crawmer

I began working on a new mystery a couple weeks ago. I hadn’t planned to do that—after all, I had a finished draft that needed some writerly attention. But, one day, out of the blue, a new character decided to take up residence in my head, strutting his stuff, making noises, trying to get noticed.

I noticed him all right. In fact, I took an immediate liking to him. He sparkled in my imagination, and, with some work would, I know, sparkle on the page. I could see the good and bad in him, his complexities, his contradictions, his possibilities. I could see him making a mess of things for my two recurring protagonists, Greg and Andre. I envisioned him as an instigator and a foil, a suspect and, maybe even a victim. I named him DeShawn.

Soon, he wasn’t alone. Thoughts of a flamboyant DeShawn begat thoughts of a domineering Ulysses and his cheating lover, Simon. Then the overprotective Patrick and conniving twin sister, Pauline, joined the party. The unhappy Vaughn and the drifting Jeremy (and their son, Brett) added to the growing noise in my noggin. Before I knew it, my head was cluttered with an entire town of chattering, attention-grabbing characters. There was only one problem: They didn’t have a story.

Well, they do now, at least the start of one. Day by day I’ve been plugging away at the plot for "Death in a Food Fight." Seems a key plot point needed a new character, so the strong-willed Alma Threadmorton was born on the page. Sure is getting crowded in that town of mine, but it's still early in the process--and, besides, one or two of them have to die!

Some of you are probably shaking an admonitory finger at me, tsk-tsking that I should be reworking the finished manuscript, not creating a whole new story. You’re probably right, but, hey, I’m having too much fun filling in the blanks in my characters’ lives, drawing the connections that link one to another (and a third or fourth), creating complications and conflicts, designing homes and workplaces, laying out the murder scene, picking the weapons or murder methods, and delighting in all the minutiae on which the story will be built.

Revising the first manuscript is too much like work to me—I get all the work I need every day at the office. Oh, some day I will need a break from DeShawn and his shenanigans, and I’ll use that time to work on the languishing manuscript. But, for now, I’m just going to enjoy myself and figure out just what kind of trouble I can make for Greg, Andre, and DeShawn and the rest of the cast.

Have you ever had to make the choice between “fun” and “work”? What did you do? Go play in the sandbox or get behind the ol’ grindstone?

9 comments:

Tory said...

When I'm writing, I definitely find the initial imagining of characters and story as fun, the revising of the manuscript (particularly after 3-4 revisions) as "hard labor."

I'm noticing the same thing on my job now: it's easy for me to conceptualize training possibilities, much harder to work out the details. But I'm beginning to think that if I go with where my energy is in the moment, and keep my eyes and ears open, that the missing pieces will fall into place. And I figure it's a much better use of my time than moving the details back and forth, obsessing but not really moving forward.

Annette said...

I used to make quilts and I'd have three going at the same time. I'd be cutting out the pieces for one, sewing pieces together for a second, and quilting on the third. Which one I worked on on any particular day depended on my mood. So if your brain needs a break from CAT FIGHT, I see nothing wrong with spending time on FOOD FIGHT, Mike.

As for me, I'm in short story mode at the moment.

Joyce said...

"Food Fight" is going to be great, Mike! "Cat Fight" will eventually call to you, don't worry.

I'm plotting a new novel, too, and it's damn hard work. I don't like it one bit! Once I get it somewhat figured out and can start writing, I'll be fine.

Lee Lofland said...

I'm with Mike. I need a day of fun, so I'm putting on the plaid bermudas, This Bud's For You t-shirt, flip flops, and sunscreen. It's a day in the sandbox for me! Now, where's my little blue bucket and red plastic shovel...

Nancy said...

Jeez, have some fun, Mike! If you're half as enthusiastic about these characters when you're working with them as telling us about them, readers are going to feel the same way. Go for it!

Joyce said...

Lee, I hope you have enough buckets and shovels for the rest of us. We're ALL coming over to your house!

Kristine said...

Having fun in the sandbox today sounds like a great idea! Count me in.

Mike, I've always believed that while fiction writing is a job, it has to also be fun. (Why else would we do it?) Write the story your heart is enthusiastic about and take advantage of that momentum for as long as you can.

Gina said...

Conflicts between work and fun? Surely you jest.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy! yet another one I have to read. I want results a finished one ... hehehe Jim