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Moving Out Of My Comfort Zone

I have never held a gun. Water pistol? Yes. A very heavy and seemingly life-like prop gun? Check. I even played laser tag once in high school, but the stone cold truth is that I have never dealt with a real weapon. I don’t know how to shoot one, and probably more importantly, I don’t know how to handle one respectfully.

For those of you who don’t know me, I was raised by hippie parents in Northern California. I had steak for the first time at the age of 18. I recycle used CD’s. Guns are scary to me.

I thought I could get through life maintaining my blissful ignorance of firearms, but the fact is that Talula Jones knows how to handle a gun, so I need to know.

Where to start? I googled “gun shop” with my zip code and found about eight places within a fifty mile radius of my home where I can either buy or shoot a gun. At some point I will need to actually fire one off, but for now I just want to hold one, unloaded, and ask a lot of stupid questions.

The current front-runner is a place called “Gun World” in Burbank. It sounds like exactly the kind of place I need, with a lot of selection, and (lets hope) knowledgeable staff.

They are open 11-7, which makes me think that their clientele shops mostly during lunch/after work. I’m going to try to be there around 3. The plan is to catch them at a slow period, so that my many questions will come off as naively charming, and not obnoxiously time-consuming (in case I haven’t been clear, I have no intention of actually purchasing a gun).

The goal is to figure out what kind of weapon Talula keeps on the farm, and the basic functionality and etiquette of said gun. If anyone out there has any words of wisdom as I head out into the terrifying world of guns and amo, don’t hold back.

Ode To My Husband

Last night I was in the shower and my husband, who knows I’m working on making my protagonist more three dimensional, asked me what the hardest, most life altering moments in my life have been. This might not be average getting-ready-for-bed discussion in your household, but I didn’t think twice about it. We quiz each other like this all the time, just for fun (and material).

Daniel is, in his own chosen medium of film, a brilliant story teller. If I had to guess, I’d say I’ve learned about 70% of what I know about story telling from working (and playing) with him. Another 20% was genetic, and the final 10% I’m getting in graduate school.

So I thought about it for a second, while I lathered and rinsed, and then I told him the top five moments in my life that hurt the most as they changed me, as a bulleted list. Then he said “you should give one of those moments to Lu,” leaned into the shower for a kiss, and went to bed.

Standing in the warm cocoon of my shower, I dismissed him as crazy. I am not Lu. Our lives are very different. It seemed there was no way to lift one of my life-changing moments and place it in the reality of this story, but then something clicked. One of the events that I had listed stood out, practically waving its arms at me.

It was a time in my life when I took care of someone else in a way that was very hard for me. I remember feeling responsible for their pain, and helpless to do anything to cure it.

If you’re reading this and wondering if maybe you were the one I had to take care of, then you see the brilliance of Daniel’s idea. This is something we can all imagine. I can give Talula that feeling of responsibility, and the growth that comes with it. It’s the feeling that is universal, not the actual event.

I hopped out of the shower and ran for my journal. Did I mention what an amazing husband I have?

The Little Things

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about character. In fact, I am thinking about Ms. Talula almost all the time.

I feel like I am starting to get a handle on who she is, and what she wants, but I’m still missing the little things. Small details of her personality like how she answers the phone, what kind of music she enjoys, whether or not she paints her finger nails.

I think it was Aristotle who said there is no character, only action. Actions, gathered together over time, make a person who they are. Furthermore, characters reacting as only they can to a given situation is what gives rise to story.

Nail biters will chew until the day they die and bad drivers will always roll through stop signs. In real life people rarely change, but in fiction they do, and it’s satisfying. This is why we read books and watch movies.

And what is that change but an incorporation or cessation of all the tiny quirks that make up a person? It’s the little things that make a character real, make us love them and cheer for them as they are forced through the difficult process of change. So Talula must start doing some things, and stop doing others over the course of my story. I’m not worried yet about the changes, just the starting point. Decisions need to be made.

So you heard it here first: Talula Jones says “yel-low” when she answers the phone, listens to old country music like Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash (mostly because it’s what her grandparents had laying around), and she doesn’t paint her nails.

Writers Write

The only thing a writer must do, to legitimately call herself a writer, is write. Period. While it is true that the world is full of writers who will never be published, you will never find a published author who doesn’t write. (For simplicity’s sake I’m ignoring the existence of ghost writers and plagiarists.)

Writers write. This simple phrase reverberates in my mind over and over, getting louder and louder, the longer I go without writing. While it’s easy to dismiss a lapse (it was Thanksgiving, I crashed my car, I got the stomach flu and wound up in the hospital) the simple fact is, if you’re not writing, you’re not a writer.

All of this is my way of confessing that, despite the best of excuses, I haven’t been a writer since last Tuesday. It’s gnawing at me, like a hungry cat that has decided to chew on my sweater for sustenance.

So I declare this morning a belated day of thanks dedicated to this blog and my readers. If not for my commitment to posting a new entry every Monday, I might continue to avoid sitting at the keyboard, but even the small feat of spilling a few hundred words onto the page gets the fingers nimble and the brain ready to work once more.

Here I go…

Taking A Moment To Celebrate

I finished my first draft on Tuesday. It weighs in at 247 pages, and I almost can’t believe I did it. When I sat down in August to start this process it seemed so far away, but five pages a day (on average), five days a week, for ten weeks landed me right where I wanted to be.

To be honest, I haven’t so much as opened the file since then. I gave myself last week to celebrate, by not working on it at all. Instead I caught up on some reading (you have to read good fiction to write good fiction), and worked on some other projects.

Today is when it really gets interesting. Today I start taking those 247 pages, and molding them into a really good story. This is not to dismiss the work that I’ve done, but as I mentioned in a previous post, I never edit as I’m writing, and the story morphed considerably as I went along. Certain themes presented themselves, while elements that seemed critically important in the beginning now seem superfluous.

The trick is, I’m not sure how to take this next step. I have a feeling that the best thing to do is outline the whole story, scene for scene, then step back and really consider what it’s about. As my thesis advisor is always pushing me to consider – what question am I trying to answer with this story?

Yikes. I think I’m more daunted by rewrites than I was by those first pages, ten weeks ago. If any one out there has any words of wisdom – lay ‘em on me.