August 2, 2010

SSFD ~ Week 9

What I’m Reading Today:  More fabulous Scribner’s Anthology.

Boy, when I said 13 weeks, I wasn’t thinking how long 13 weeks really was. I’m already so fragmented in my life, it’s hard having one more thing fragmenting me. But, you know, I’m learning a lot about myself through this process, which I think I’ll recap when it’s all over.

So, I didn’t quite rise to the challenge of the Summer of Shitty First Drafts, though I did get a story started. Not quite three pages. This week, I had no idea where I was going before I started. Usually I have the general scenario, the characters, and the first line worked out in my mind before I sit down to the page. This week, I typed the first thing that came to mind.

The first thing that popped into my head was: “Imagining my parents as swingers is easier to do than you might imagine. It was the 70s, after all, when I first knew them.” I think this came from a combination of thinking of two things: the movie The Ice Storm, which is based on a book by Rick Moody that I would love to read but have not yet, and a great 70s photo of my writer friend Merrik Bush-Pirkle and her family when she was a kid.

So, I liked those first lines but had no idea who said it or what was going to happen. I thought, well, it’s a kid watching his parents. They must have parties. What do they do with their kid when they have these parties? Well, he goes to the basement to play, and let’s give him a brother: “I thought it was normal to be banished to the basement while large groups of loud adults overran the first floor and spilled out onto the patio.”

Why a “him”? I don’t know. Maybe the protagonist became a boy when I wrote the line: “Damon, my little brother, and I would’ve been happy to stay in the basement if it weren’t for the swells of women’s thighs pressed into checkered miniskirts and the trainwreck tone in the voices drifting down the stairs.” A sensitive boy would notice these things.

I circled back and described the parents a bit: “Mom bobbed her brown hair and wore dresses splashed with color. Dad grew muttonchops and herbs.”

Then, continuing: “As the romance of sunset dimmed and night took over everyone’s hearts, the polite laughter and the clatter of dinnerware was replaced by deep guttural guffaws and the stomping of loafers.”

You get the idea. I continued on. I have no idea where this story is going, and I don’t have a name for it yet. Maybe someone at the party will do something to the boy. Or maybe he’ll realize something about himself. It’ll be about sex, but more than sex. Maybe about the fallibility of adults.

See, I’m all excited to find out!

Questions of the Day: What do you start with when you start a story? Can you just dive in knowing nothing? Or do you have to have some of it figured out?

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