Sunday, May 9, 2010

Will Write for Fun

Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone
What is the most fun scene I’ve ever written? I fervently believe that I haven’t written the most fun scene I will ever write yet. It’s how I keep going. Seeking the perfect turn of phrase puts fuel in my imagination. Looking at a new location, or an old one with new eyes, makes me pack my bags and hit the road. Exploring new characters by talking to strangers at summer fruit markets, playgrounds, conferences and in the check out line at the supermarket might be the only reason I, as an introverted writer-type, leave my house. Well, except for when the dog needs walking. But that’s the future. For now, I’ll have to revisit the past.

What is the most fun scene I’ve written so far? Surprisingly, the scene, in its entirety, never ended up in a book. It’s the scene where my protagonist, Sara, marries on a dare. You have to know the background. In the first draft of my first novel, Catnapped, Sara is single. There is no marriage. No hot romantic entanglement. No personal drama. My critique group persuaded me, and by that I mean harangued, harassed and heckled me with the best intentions and sarcasm sharp enough to penetrate my thick skull, into adding a husband. He couldn’t be a boyfriend. Gabi the author needed the commitment as much as Sara the character. Non-husbands are too easy to kill. They become collateral damage in the interests of not having to make the hard edits necessary to weave a main man into an already written mystery with its plot twists and character revelations.

I had to put myself into Sara’s sneakers. I’d spent months with her but I couldn’t figure out how she could end up married. What would prompt her? What would make sense with her impetuous, impervious pursue the bad guy mentality? And who could make her go there? What man would prove such a lure that she’d set aside her single-mindedness to take a chance on romance? That’s where the fun begins, of course. It’s the ultimate masquerade ball. It’s not enough to wear a mask and a costume. I spent a week being Sara. Have you ever given yourself the chance to imagine a completely different life? It’s a rush.
I was in Las Vegas. I didn’t plan it. I just happened to be there for a road race. Sweating strangers in running shorts pumped full of endorphins. Phermones in the desert sun. Plenty of potential suitors. I don’t usually look around during races. It’s enough for me to avoid a stray rock or ankle-breaking curb. But I did. I was searching out the perfect man. I looked and looked. He was nowhere which made sense for the author since I hadn’t spotted him in my first thirty-odd years. I finished with a tragic race time, showered and went to an air conditioned movie theater to regroup. There he was. The face. An actor, beautiful and deadly. He wasn’t the romantic lead or the protagonist or even the name above the marquee. He was in the take care of it guy. A company man. Loyal to the point of felony but then, Sara wasn’t going to be awed by ordinary. For the first time, I could see her tied to the unpredictable. I could also, for the first time, see how much better the book could be for it.

No where on Earth is illusion more a part of the local DNA than on the strip. So Sara was in Vegas. Impulse control set to off. Hot mystery man with physical characteristics firmly in mind, check. Then, I went to see Cirque du Soleil’s “O.” There’s a moment, when a man runs across the stage a few inches deep in water as another acrobat releases his grip from a high trapeze. By the time the flier hits the same spot where the runner’s feet splashed across the floor, the floor is gone and the water deep enough for him to dive deeply beneath the surface. From my seat, it still looked like a floor. That’s how Sara would get married. Let go, eyes closed, screaming the whole way. A dare of epic proportion. The kind of dare that would get Sara off the fence and into life.

I wrote the scene in the lobby of the hotel. I watched as brides in long veils and elaborate dresses walked through the casinos on their way to chapels with attendants in togas. I could hear the cheers and groans from the crowds huddled around slot machines and craps tables. The whole place pulsed with life and cliff edge adrenaline. For the first time, I wasn’t writing Sara’s story. She was writing her own. I didn’t know where it was going. I didn’t know how it would turn out. I just had to let go and ride the ride. Sara does retell the story in Doggone but it’s not the same as living it like I did that weekend. That scene was dozens of pages long, far too long for an editor or an author conscious of pace and purpose. But writing it made Sara and Connor real. I laughed out loud. I couldn’t wait to spend more time with them. I didn’t know how any of it would end and that was perfect. That unused scene became the real life blood of the series. Never was I happier or more excited as an author. It was like a dream where the emotions are so vivid and the colors so brilliant that you don’t want to wake up from this wonderful imaginary world. That scene, and the ones I hope will exceed it, are the most fun I’ve ever had. Until the next time.

Thanks for reading.



Jen Forbus said...

I can see why that scene was exciting to write Gabi! It was exciting to read. I love it...wonder if you could turn it into a short story or chap book or something.

Gabi said...

I'll admit I still dream of using more of it. Especially the scary let go part. Maybe Sara should go skydiving.