April 19, 2013

The Process

I can't speak for other writers, of course, but when I write my brain seems to have a mind of its own. Well, it would, wouldn't it? What I think I mean to say is that while one side of my brain has a definite idea in mind, the other side tends to roam all over the place. Case in point, a little ghost story for campers. Nothing too scary, no Carrie here. More Ichabod Crane. So...

It was a dark and stormy night and all the kids were sitting around the campfire. Someone said, "Come John, tell us a story," so John began. Yes, good beginning. Sets up a nice scene, gives an inkling that some sort of horror could be lurking.

Too trite? Too obvious - dark night, thunder in the offing? Maybe I should go another way. A more normal kind of day, but still add a little something ominous. Okay.

It was a sunny afternoon and they were all sitting around the campfire. But where was John? All right, but if it's a sunny day, they wouldn't be sitting around a campfire, would they? They would be hiking or fishing or skinny dipping.

Hmm, how about it was a sunny afternoon and they were all sitting down to lunch. That would get them all together. Oh come on, no one wants to hear a story about lunch.

What would work? Rain. Rain is always mysterious. It was a rainy morning and they were all - what? what were they all doing? Obviously not sitting around a campfire. Rainy morning, stuck in their tents. Do they all pile into one tent, so John can tell a story? That wouldn't be much fun. It would be crowded and would smell like wet gym socks.

How about changing it up a bit? It was a starlit evening with a soft breeze coming over the hill. John and friends were walking along the water's edge? That's nice. It's soothing, idyllic, peaceful. John could tell a story about camping under the stars when he was a kid.

Or better yet, it's just John and Mabel walking under the stars, holding hands, a nightingale's singing in the distance. She looks into his eyes, immediately they know, he leans down and gently kisses her. Wonderful! Good start. I like it.

But will my audience like it? Sure. Who doesn't like a nice love story? So this is it. John and Mabel falling in love on a balmy evening in springtime.

Wait a minute! What the heck have I done? John and Mabel? Love? Springtime? This is a ghost story - for campers! Delete, delete, delete!!!!! (The problem with computers is that you don't have the dubious satisfaction of yanking the paper out of the typewriter, crushing it into a tight ball, and making a three pointer into the trash can.)

Okay. Back to the drawing board. Spooky camping story. Needs a good beginning. Something that sets the tone. A little eerie, with a hint of some nameless horror to come. Let's see, I've got it! I think this will work. It was a dark and stormy night and all the kids were sitting around the campfire. Someone said, "Come John, tell us a story," so John began.

And so the process goes.


  1. lol...well, how about it was a thunderstorm warning just issued and john and his buddies ran under the overpass and then....
    well, this is your story....LOL...but I like the camping storyline too.

  2. Humor? Good for you, Penny. Don't forget to sprinkle it here & there throughout your novel.

    As far as paper-crushing satisfaction ... print it first. Then rip it from the tray(?). And you do know for it to be a 3-point shot, your trashcan has to be at least 22-feet away.

    Watch out for those cliché' openings...

    They can be "... the best of times," or "... the worst of times."


  3. PS. Set your blog clock for east coast time. I didn't really write this at 1:24am.

  4. Anonymous4/25/2013

    I like sitting by the campfire on a full moon night after skinny dipping from the waters edge.