Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sex, Drugs, and More Sex
Revelations From the Mornings After

I'll be honest--I put "sex and drugs" in this post title mainly to get your attention. Although Thanks, That Was Fun and the story of its writing centers on a whole shit-ton of the former and quite a bit of the latter, it has more to do with how I processed the experiences I was having while writing this novel. And a lot of this processing occurred on "the morning after," or, rather, LOTS of mornings after.

So....I'd been pounding away at this story for about a month. I had roughly fifty pages worth of dialogue and random scenes involving Jordan and sketches of characters that would later become Genna, Iris, and Dean. And--aside from a paragraph here and there--most of what I wrote was absolutely wretched. I didn't realize how awful it was at the time, thankfully so, because I probably would have trashed the whole thing and gone back to surfing for vintage concert t-shirts on my shitty dial-up internet connection. But I printed out those pages and showed them to my friend S. over a late night dinner at Denny's. She was nice enough to read what I had written, laugh politely over a few witty sentences, and say "Wow, this is pretty good. I didn't know you could write."

And that was enough to keep me going.

It was around this time that I became involved with an ex-boyfriend. I knew on some level that this relationship was doomed to fail yet again, but I was desperately infatuated with this guy and he fulfilled my deep hunger for companionship and sex. He was also inadvertently giving me material for my book, something that I realized one night while we were at a dinner party with some of his friends. This guy--let's call him Mr. Ex--was recounting something that happened to him at work that day. It was a really dumb anecdote, and, as Mr. Ex's friends howled with laughter, my antennae went up and I thought "Aha! I've got to remember this. I'm going to use this guy and his lame-ass story and the crappy way he's telling it and his friends' drunken fawning in my book. This will make a fantastic scene!" So I furiously took mental notes and the morning after I went home, sat down at my computer, and began to recount the scene as vividly as my hungover brain could recall it. I pounded out the events of the night on my keyboard, struggling to capture every word, every nuance, everything that I thought was significant and telling about Mr. Ex and his friends and the booze-soaked dinner party. I got it all down on the page, marveling all the while at my own brilliance and wit, the way I was able to take a real-life scene and transform it into art.

When I went back and read what I had written, I was dismayed to find--like Mr. Ex's annoying friends and his anecdote and the dinner party itself--the scene I'd written was completely dull and pointless. I was puzzled. I saved the writing on my disk and put the scene on the back burner for a few days. Then I went back and tried to fix it. I tried to make it funny. I tried to make it sizzle. I tried to make it sing. I couldn't. And that's when I had probably the most important revelation of all: when you write fiction, you make stuff up.

That's what fiction is. It's fabrication, it's fantasy, it's lies.

Part III - Branching out, branching in.

1 comment:

Doug Toft said...

Fascinating. Keep revealing the back story.