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Get Out of bed! Your Characters Have Places to Go!


Last weekend I set us off track by a few days with a massive writing depression. I pulled my blankets over my head and I closed my eyes and I covered my ears and I didn’t talk to anyone for like a day and a half. We appear to have recovered from that setback, and fortunately when working with 4 other writers you hardly have to explain when something like that happens. We’ve all been there.

Part of the procrastination was that I was a couple days behind on my reading, so once I finally got arsed to write, I wasn’t able to just jump right in–I had to read a couple of chapters first. Once I did, I basically had to laugh at myself because the intervening chapters had done so much to develop the plot and the characters that, once it was my turn, the chapter practically wrote itself.

The dentist was the full-on enemy, and Carol was in his grasp in Iowa City. That meant I would have to somehow deliver her from Walcott, Iowa, where she and her son Kevin were smoking cigarettes and worrying about what to do. I devised a storyline that would get her there, but it was a bit outside my comfort zone. Yale claims “the ‘cop thriller’ ‘police procedural’ type of fiction” is a familiar scheme for most people in our culture, but it’s really not so much for me. I read anthropology books, boring theoretical stuff about aesthetics, literary criticism. And the first cop drama I ever loved is The Wire (And I’m only 3 episodes deep. Confession: I haven’t had a TV since 2001. Apologies to all that is pop, many will say I probably shouldn’t be at the helm of a culture mag, but you’re stuck with me for now!).

So anyway this brings me to my point. I had this very cop-drama scenario playing out where Rosso and Carol and Lenny have this long history, Carol testifying against Rosso, Lenny helping Rosso discredit her while securing her safety and ultimately bringing her and Kevin under his protection. As I told Yale later, I wished I could call him to have him write the few paragraphs outlining that, all in very fancy cop/mob language that he and Paul Seeman are pulling off so well. He smiled and looked up at the sky: I’m like a session musician. You need a drummer to lay down some specialized jams on your rock song. Yes indeed. I needed Yale or Paul in the middle of my last chapter. Perhaps, when we are done with this novel and all the publishing houses in New York City are pounding down our door for the rights, we’ll take a moment to go back and have the more qualified among us re-write our awkward sections. Until then we’ll have to stretch our little brains and try to get where we need to get in order to put the pieces into place as best we can without the assistance of elaborate flow charts keeping us reminded of all the peripheral facts of our wild little story, going wherever it wants to go, one chapter a day, one day at a time.


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