That, and a conversation last evening with my dear friend Evelyn's husband, the gorgeous and gregarious (if slightly giddy ;)) Karlito, got me thinking again about where my stories come from -- my beginnings and middles and ends -- and how differently I seem to write than many of my friends who (enviably) write from well-formed ideas reduced to detailed outlines, their chapters and plot (oh dear god when will I EVER learn to plot?) mapped out before them in bulleted, organized glory.
I write with no such bulleted, organized glory.
For example, evolution of The Pull of Gravity: I read an article about this guy, see, and something about him intrigued me and I found myself wondering what his real life might be like. How what he had done (set out to walk across America to lose weight, in this case) would affect his marriage and, more importantly to me, his children, his family.
He became the first central character driving the story, except that I knew that the story would be told from his son's perspective (I do not remember if the real guy has a son).
The second thing that happened was, as I was thinking vaguely about the story, my younger son spiked a fever, which brought the first line of the book to me, and the few lines that followed:
"A fever was what started everything. That, and the water tower, and the cherry cola. Well, also, Dad and his condition, and Mom being in
Nothing else about the story had come to me yet. But I just started writing, and eventually a story unfolded.
Little known fact (nearly forgotten by me): the first working title of the book in my computer files was Fat Man Walking -- a far cry from Steinbeck, The Scoot, and the Pull of Gravity, now just The Pull of Gravity, eh?
Anyway, this is how I write, despite that all I had in this case was a character or two, some lines that appealed to me, and my own desire and intrigue. Lord knows how I got here from there.
The title came to me one morning as I woke up. Nothing but that title. There was a reason that Kerouac was on my brain, and I was ruminating on my next YA, but other than that, and the sudden realization that somehow butterflies were also to be involved, I had little else when I set the manuscript in motion. How the rest unfolded remains a mystery to me.
The first line, "The first time I see Frankie Schyler, he’s diving into the deep end of the Lawrenceville Country Club pool," came to me together with an image of a small boy, angelic looking, diving confidently into a swimming pool surrounded by onlookers, appearing to swim sort of miraculously, then drowning instead. I was in the pool, underwater, when the image came to me.
All of my stories are like this -- springing from bits and pieces, vague ideas, images that pull at me, call to me while I swim, or drive, or sleep. I suspect this is not the best way to write, and worse, I suspect it is why, while my writing is repeatedly praised, editors continue to struggle with my stories, my plotting, the way things unfold in my novels, over and over again.
Perhaps it is not the best way to write, but so far, it's the only way I know how.
How do your stories come to you?