I'm in my ex-girlfriend's mansion. It keeps changing, morphing, bringing her parents into view, then her sister. It's a mess. What am I doing here? My ex is married. She doesn't even live with her parents anymore. Door closes. She takes me and sits on top of me as we have sex. I'm not even hard. House morphs again. I'm still in her room and the big elephant in the my mind is her marriage and the fact that we've broken up...six, seven years ago. Why doesn't her mom tell me to get out? I wake and remember my muse.
I’ve heard the unconscious has a lot of weird things in there. Last night I had a dream of one of my ex-girlfriends. To say the relationship was like oil and fire was an understatement. So why did I dream about her? It was a long time ago. She’s married, which I knew in that looptee loop of a dream. Her family knew she was married and didn’t say anything when I spent the night in their mansion that kept morphing its floor plan. Shit! My ex and I had sex and she didn’t say anything! What the hell is going on? Too much cofffeeee.
In my last post I wrote about my pet peeve: Experts telling writers to write what they know. And I stated that what writers know is the human condition, if you’re human. Which is absolutely true. We all have access to the experience of life as humans, until we’re dead. Then the experience would probably be something else.
I do agree in a certain aspect of writing that what you know should be taken at face value. I was listening to John Irving talk about his writing process. He outlines—needs—to know where the story goes from start to finish so he can just focus on pacing: the length of the sentences, paragraphs, etc. But when he comes onto a subject that he knows nothing about, he spends a massive amount of time researching, after which he now knows and will be able to write.
So. If you want to write FLIGHT, starring Denzel Washington, researching how to fly a jet liner is important. Researching what it’s like to be an alcoholic is important. But do you have to have a pilot’s license or be an alcoholic to write FLIGHT? No. Can it help? Anything's possible.
Often times the nitty gritty details isn’t important because those don’t lend to the actual story being talked about. In FLIGHT, the actual terminology in regards to piloting an airplane could fit within a ten minute segment, less even. Rest of the movie focused on the tug and pull of alcoholism. And even then people can understand addictive natures. And if they don’t have any experience with it, then research is key. I’m not an alcoholic, but I do understand the addictive behaviors of humans. Even as a kid, I had some of my own. Could I write about drug addiction then? No. Could I write about the addictive nature of playing vs. doing my homework? Hell yes.
Now comes the one thing that I think certain stories require: life experience. Certain experiences in our lives can help us become better wordsmiths if required. If I’m writing See Jack Run, that ain’t gonna need life experience. But if we’re talking about having loved and lost, then it’ll be good to have actually loved and lost, whether it be a favorite toy or lover. Aren’t those things the same? Sorry. Bad joke. But I know that puppy love can be just as intense and “real” adult love...uh...grown-up love. And losing it can be devastating whether you’re a child or an adult. I would venture to say that children are more equipped to handle that better than adults can. They tend to let things go more easily.
Words, in my opinion, can have emotional impact, while their synonyms may not (in context of course). A method actor (what I like to term as Methodist…bad joke?) experiences their role as if they are truly happening. They may never have given birth to a child, Arnold, but if they’re good actors and can understand the pain of delivering a turkey out of a teeny tiny hole, then we can understand the pain.
My book, NIGHTFALL, centers on a couple who tragically loses their baby boy and must contend with their children fighting an impending war. I’ve never been married, don’t have children, or fought in a war. Having loved and lost, I used that particular relationship in my dream to drive my words in my book. I do believe that helped a lot. But you know what they say about beliefs? They work when you believe and don’t when you don’t.