“Criminal minds – writing, reading, murder, and mayhem.” Great holiday subjects, yes?
We’ve been given free rein this month, which means a totally blank canvas and, for me, a totally empty brain. I thought I’d look at our happy blog catch phrase for inspiration.
“Writing” – I’m struggling with revisions for my third Dani O’Rourke, in part because my delightful publishers informed me cutting the brakes in a car is so cliché. I’ve now asked four guys what they’d do if they had to disable a car they didn’t know well, a modern car with electronics and disc brakes and power locks. “Cut the brakes” was the answer times four, even though with independent braking systems, not all braking power would be cut. It would still be an accident waiting to happen on a hill. This is the kind of not-fun work that writers do, the situations that make us run screaming from the computer. It means pushing back with the editors or reimagining an entire plot in the story. Is it too early in the day for spiked eggnog?
“Reading” – I made the mistake of starting the Illiad (Fagles’ translation) and The Judgment of Paris (Ross King on the birth of Impressionism) in late October, thinking such a steady diet of crime fiction needed to be broken up. Now, my pride won’t let me quit either of those, but Sara Paretsky’s personally signed latest V.I. story, Critical Mass, demands my attention, as do the latest by Dennis Lehane, Michael Stanley, Hallie Ephron, and Sara Henry (among way too many others). But until I get said revisions off my desk, reading from my TBR pile is out of the question. Is it too early in the day for more spiked eggnog?
“Murder” – I would never, never think about murdering anyone except in my books, but I’ll bet I’m not the first writer who has wondered just a teensy bit about the way recalcitrant editors might suffer and perish. (Just kidding, editors…) I live in the San Francisco area and our local paper leads with local murders, of which there are far too many. Real ones, where families suffer and the police flounder, and witnesses are silent, and it’s all far too dreary and tragic to read about every day. It definitely isn’t too early for bourbon laced with a little eggnog.
“Mayhem” – “actions that hurt people and destroy things : a scene or situation that involves a lot of violence” (Merriam-Webster) . Creating mayhem in a story is surprisingly enjoyable, and I wonder why that is? Maybe because I would never allow myself to throw china, deliberately hit the car in front of me, smash down a door. Imagining it concretely enough to write a believable scene is both a challenge and a release, and I was deeply gratified when the violent climax of my first book for a thumbs up from the editors and readers. That’s something for me to remember as I go back to my current problem and try to figure out what mayhem I can create that will satisfy me, and my editors, today. No more eggnog until I’m done.