Monday, August 20, 2012

It's the Waiting that Can Kill You (figuratively speaking)

As a writer you can spend a lot of time waiting. I used to write another novel while waiting for a rejection letter from the last effort. As a result, I now have a closet full of unpublished novels waiting for me to get around to sending them off to an unsuspecting publisher.

What set me off on this untracked train of thought was this month’s annual week-long sailing expedition with a granddaughter up Lake Winnipeg. After carefully checking the forecasts, we ran into the usual bad weather on day one. Normally I enjoy watching thunderstorms, but not from the middle of a large lake. We took the sails down in anticipation of the usual howling winds, stuffed the crew down below, closed the hatch, and waited behind the wheel for the darkness to descend. This time there was no wind, just the thunder, lightning, and very heavy rain. The heavy drops slicked down the waves until they looked like beaten metal. Wondering why I hadn’t made more use of nautical themes in my writings, I had the opportunity to think about how I might use the current situation in a plot. A science fiction theme could have a space ship crashing and the occupant rescued by a sailor. Fantasy lends itself to such a scene: sea monsters, mermaids, princesses fleeing an evil something or other. I even wondered about a romance, picturing the soaking sailor going down below when the storm passed to be toweled down by his grateful passenger ... and one thing would lead to another...

I even made some notes, once we reached a dock.

I was in a good mood when a few days later we settled down at anchor in a tranquil bay with three other boats. My mood was soon jarred by a sailor in a zodiac disturbing our relaxation to announce that a strong squall warning had been issued, and suggesting everyone put out more anchor line to ride it out. Here is where the waiting comes into my tale. We sat out in the cockpit that evening watching the sky. Clouds making shapes like grasping hands while the lake turned to glass. Talk about anticipation! The thought of any plot ideas sank to the bottom of my mind. In the end, nothing much happened; the wind that night was no worse than usual, although I did peer out once to a magnificent light show on the far side of the lake.

We seemed to have daily bad weather, and the sail home at the end was one I may not forget. It would make a good setting for a horror tale, if I really want to recall it.

The bottom line is that plots lie in wait all around us. Waiting for someone else to write the story can kill your creative ideas. Pull up anchor and put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and write that tale, before the ideas, and magnificent settings, drift away.

R.J. Hore


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

You're very right, and such observations can fade and slip away before you have the chance to record them in all their clarity. Take notes if you can't write the scene. Start your story with the most amazing part of your experience. Remember Rebecca? "The last camel died at noon."

What an opening line, the hook...the hook!

Ute Carbone said...

Yes! I'll often write down little bits of info, or an opening line that pops into my head. Or a title. I have a folder of these sorts of snippets. If you don't put them to paper, you forget them!

Jude Johnson said...

I always carry a small notebook in my purse for just such occasions. The memory can be slippery, and jotting details is vital.


linda_rettstatt said...

I've written scenes for potential books just about everywhere--even while sitting at a slot machine! I used to carry 3x5 cards with me. Now I dictate into my cell phone and type it out later.