THE POLKA-DOT SEWER STRIKES AGAIN
I’ve always valued the random thought when it comes to inspiration. During the creation of my stories, as I’ve stated many times, I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer. I know where to start and where I want to end, with everything in-between a total surprise. Of course, considering the subject matter, that in-between has to follow certain guidelines. The path and any actions within those guidelines can be purely random, inspired by the littlest, most trivial things.
I think I’ve passed this down to my grandson. This past Saturday night, we went out to my favorite dark-sky location so I could do some deep-sky visual observing with my telescope. He likes to come along so he can use his punky little telescope that I won in a raffle at our latest major star party at Cathedral Gorge this past September. He loves that scope, though truth be told, at this stage in his life, it’s merely a prop so he can get out of the house and do his real favorite thing, talk incessantly.
Yup, before we even leave the house, he’s jabbering away. He doesn’t stop until he either falls asleep over halfway home, or when we back into the driveway (to unload the telescope) and he runs into the house ahead of me. The chatter is one endless random stream. Over the past few months, he’s been “writing a book” in his head. I won’t go into the details because I don’t have a clue what they are. I’m not kidding. His story is so random, I can’t make heads or tails of it except once in a while he puts two or three sentences together that sort of make sense. I may go “Uh huh,” or ask him a question which sends him off on another tangent. He’s happy, I drive!
I sometimes wonder how, when he gets older, he could channel that randomness into a creative outlet with real stories. I was that way when I was his age, eight, except I didn’t talk near as much. However, I had my share of stories even younger, as in kindergarten, like when my sister went down the bathtub drain, or later in elementary school where I was a crew kid on a whaling ship that visited Calee’fornia from Hawaii. These stories I told with a straight face to my teachers and classmates. Who knows where that inspiration came from?
Whether my eight year old grandson will be able to develop his talent for gab into a creative outlet is to be seen, but I know he must’ve inherited a bit of that creativity and randomness from me.
Now that I’ve finished a totally true, but with fictionalized dialogue (for story flow) account from my childhood for our writer’s group anthology, I can get back to my fantasy novel. Of course, Gods Of The Blue Mountains is in a completely fictional world, so I have a different set of rules, yet there are rules. I can’t do something jarring. I can do startling and maybe exciting, but not jarring. I can’t jerk people out of the world, but I can up the ante with tense scenes or do something goofy. My random process will be intact, all with the ultimate goal still on the horizon and firmly entrenched.
I think back to the Polka-Dot Sewer drawing I did in kindergarten, and how I amazed my neighbor mothers when they asked me what it was. The title just popped into my head and there was the beginnings of my lifelong creative streak. I see that same creativity in my grandson, and I’ve seen multiple Polka-Dot Sewers come out of his head.
For you, the new or experienced writer, if your game is fiction, how much do you make up at random and how much do you meticulously plan out from convention? How much do you pull out of the air?
The whole point of this article, I suppose, is a big thumbs down from me on outlining. I suppose one could use that same randomness in the outlining process, then turn the same principle to the details. A little organization can help some of you from going off the rails. For me, even the hint of planning ahead spoils the muse, it spoils the adventure. Yet, I applaud those of you that work that way. Each of us is different and it really doesn’t matter how we get there. What we end up with is all that matters. Either the end result is good or it sucks.