My Grandpa’s Farmhouse

The story I’m working on now features a family farmhouse and I’m using the one my grandpa currently lives in as an example. I was doing some writing the other night and ran into a little problem.

(Isn’t this blog supposed to be about my inability to write? Dammit creative juices, you are ruining my blog!)

The layout of the second story has four bedrooms of varying sizes. The family in my story has a mother and father, two daughters, a son, and a visitor. But where to put them all? I don’t want the visitor to stay in the cramped bedroom right next to the master bedroom, he might Hear Things, but I don’t want any of the kids there either, they might Hear Other Things. What to do, what to do?

Pictured by Me

Grandpa's Farmhouse

And my brain paused for a minute and then said, make it up dummy! No one is going to fact-check your novel or care that it contains a square inch by square inch recreation of the farmhouse you’ve been to. The farmhouse is a model, a starting point, that I can bend to my will.

Really, it doesn’t matter at all. I didn’t waste any time rearranging the layout of the top floor to fit everyone I wanted, the house is not a main character. I’m sure there are plenty of stories where the house is very important. The Haunting comes to mind. But what I’m working on isn’t one of them. I put the minutiae behind and Moved. On.

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Little Miss I-Was-There-All-Along

Nathan Rabin coined the very apt term Manic Pixie Dream Girl for the determined kind of free spirit that pervades current romantic movies and chronicled her well here and here. And the fine NPR folks at Pop Culture Happy Hour listed some other possible additions to the overused trope canon here. (Schlubby Screenwriter with Two Beautiful Babes to Choose From is an excellent choice.)

On the eve of One Day, that Anne Hathaway/Jim Sturgess movie I won’t link to because the trailer makes me angry, I have another addition to the possible canon: Little Miss I-Was-There-All-Along.

Because Ladies, it’s ok to pine away for the one you love. He may be a shallow jerk and screw half the city but one day he will get tired, or his idol will give him a long speech of wisdom through experience, or his dad will die and he will learn that life is fleeting/what’s on the inside counts/you were the one who was always there for him and he will come running into your open arms.

“She made you decent. And in return you made her so so happy.” That’s a line from the trailer (still not linking to it, it’s googleable). So she was responsible for making him a better person and “in return” was fulfilled by his mere presence.

Nevermind that this friend is usually played by someone like Anne Hathaway, who the guy should be trying to nail from frame one. Unless it’s one of those ugly duckling stories where the girl takes off her glasses and suddenly she’s GORGES OMG!

One Day or Princess Diaries?

UGH! So hiddy! // MUCH better

Looking at the Wikipedia listing of romantic comedies, the most popular ending for Little Miss I-Was-There-All-Along is that the object of her affection realizes what a wonderful and beautiful person she is and professes his love, only to be rejected as she moves on to his friend who has always seen her for the beauty she is, inside and out. (See: Sabrina, Bridge Jones’ Diary, While You Were Sleeping)

What the trailer for One Day seems to imply is that they wind up together in the end. So basically, just be nice (and patient) and that friend you’ve got your eye on will eventually come around. The female equivalent of the Nice Guy, except even more passive. And thus, I have put my finger on why the trailer fills me with rage.

Compare to My Best Friend’s Wedding, which plays with the trope and then dismisses it, DARING to leave Julia Roberts single when the credits roll. (Uh, spoiler alert?)

(Though I don’t look on the medium with disdain, I am hardly a romantic comedy aficionado a la Kelly Kapoor. However, I want to give props to Under the Tuscan Sun, which seems to be the only movie that works in a love interest like a deus ex machina, who drops in out of nowhere. But it’s GREAT. It’s about HER, not just her love life! You don’t have to wait for someone to get their shit together! Life goes on, even after you’re 25!)

ETA: BWAHAHA! Better Book Titles: One Day

Inspiration is my Godot

I was planning on doing a post a week and then went on vacation and shot that all to hell. But, neglected blog withstanding, it was pretty successful creatively. I took over 500 pictures. I got some reading done. I worked on my goddamn novel. Words were written, whole pages of them. My poor empty notebook is slightly less empty.

I was in Maine, where my novel is set so it was a bit of a research trip for me, as much as taking pictures of lobster traps is research. (It is relevant to Things.) But being in the place where I’m making my characters act and dance was helpful. I was on top of Pigeon Hill where I could see a thick fog rolling over the islands out in the ocean. It looked so cool that I had to write about it, just for a taste of the local flavor, so that I don’t get taken to task by people who actually live and work there. I’m not a tourist, I swear!

It took me a couple days to actually force myself to sit down and write because… it’s fog. What’s there to write about? Well, many notebook pages and a few plot points later, turns out there’s a lot.

Can't get there from here

The Mist: makes a lot of sense now actually

That’s usually what happens to me but I still hold myself back, waiting for something concrete to write about, which never comes. Or, even more pathetic, I have the scenes in my head but they’re tent-pole pieces and just too daunting to start now. But sometimes I get the right sentence in my head, just the perfect turn of phrase and I have to write it down because it’s going to be gone in seconds. And then I just keep going.

Intellectually, I know that I just need to start and the words will come but the hardest part is just picking up that pen.

Now I just need to get over feeling like a douche every time I say “my novel.”

The Form

One of the things I struggle with is deciding how to write a story and I don’t mean what pen to use. (Actually, I do give that a lot of thought too.) Often times I start working on a screenplay and think, “maybe I should be writing this as a novel.” Or vice versa. Or a play. Because with the technology we have now, anything’s possible on stage.

Spiderman, Spiderman.

Ok, maybe not just ANYTHING...

But freaks of nature aside, it’s a tough call. Currently, I’ve got a novel, a screenplay, and a stage play in the works. (My definition of “in the works” is, it’s in my head and I keep saying to myself “I should write that someday.”) I think it mostly boils down to how many explosions and how much sex you want. If you want a lot of sex that’s not just a rustling bedsheet and lingerings shots of tertiary sex characteristics (ooo… abs) you write a novel (or go into porn). If you want explosions, you write a screenplay. If you want neither sex or explosions (or ticket sales) you write a play. Done.

For ME, what it comes down to is what I have the energy for. I find prose more rewarding than screenplays, which can feel like transcription, but that’s only when it’s done well. The right turn of phrase just feels good, but that takes a lot of work.

And then I realize that my conception, my brilliant idea, my earth-shattering brain fart works best as a Tweet and I give up for the night.