Dry Icky Words
by Ryshia Kennie
Not "rated" by the Author.
edited: Sunday, November 23, 2008
Posted: Sunday, November 23, 2008
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What happens when life gets in the way of writing? Or when the story just won't cooperate - do you just chuck it all?
I say no and that's where dry icky words come in...
I never write the end. Because at that point I have been through so much with my characters that I’m more than a little in love with them.
But it doesn’t always begin like that. There is that point in almost every story, usually right after that flash of inspiration, when the characters refuse to cooperate. When they won’t show any dimension that isn’t flatly glued to the page. There’s that time when I just want to jump ship and head into another story idea - a new story, a virgin story where the characters aren’t stuck. And the new characters, the one’s from the virgin story know that, I’m sure of it, as they call seductively to me.
But there is a reason to stick with that first story, the one that’s causing you so much trouble. The reason is that eventually those characters will wake up, stretch and everything will be all right. I know so because I’ve been there before. The characters do eventually come to life but they need a little help. A setting where they’ll be happy to live in, a plot that they’re excited by, like an avatar they need a world they can enthusiastically populate. So how do you do that when the inspiration seems to have shriveled and the muse has packed her bags and flown away?
First, I think there’s way too much emphasis put on the muse. Wasn’t that something that inspired badly written poetry in Junior High? The muse is a gift we get once in awhile but not without a lot of work to earn it. Writing is a joy but writing is also work because to get to the joy we have to write and typically the muse is not showing up for the event. Instead you sit down every day and write words. Words that might be dry to the point of icky but words that will eventually spark a direction and more importantly light a fire under that first character. Of course that raises a few questions.
What makes a character rise from the page and talk back – and in time, hook both the writer and ultimately the reader?
Can it really all start from dry, icky words?
I say--yes it can! Besides what are your other options? Writers write. So you have to write something. Write words. Force the story. I know. You can’t force a story. That just makes for bad literature. But I’ll tell you a secret. Sitting down and writing despite inspiration will eventually move that story forward. Just forge ahead, writing one dry, icky word after another, scene sequel if you will but push forward. Force yourself to sit in that chair, pushing through the agonizing thought that this story will never live and feel real passion, that the characters will always be cardboard.
Then one day, you’ll write another dry word, another icky phrase and something amazing will happen. A character will begin to push up out of the page and talk back. They’ll tell you want they want and what you should do and on that day your story will spin on its head and likely turn in a totally different direction.
That deep well of your experiences both good and bad suddenly offers up emotions by the bucket and your character latches on. Then another character and another and soon your story has smoke curling from the words and the fire behind that smoke has burned every dry and icky word you wrote to get there.
You’ll know your story is on fire and the muse truly has arrived when your characters have lived, breathed, cried, screamed and triumphed. When you’ve wrestled with them over what you consider ridiculous demands and often lost the battle. When you’ve lost sleep over their cries in the night as they remind you that they live and while they do they will make demands. Like babies they demand in voices that exceed their physical presence and they do so any time through the day or night.
But you’re over that now. You are exhausted but you’ve forged through the desert, lived through the cries in the night and fell sweetly in love just in time for the end.