Fried Egg On Teflon: Holding a Story

Okay, maybe I should have used a different image.  Picture a bear scooping salmon out of a stream.  Or rather, picture a bear trying to scoop salmon out of a stream.  That was me yesterday and today, trying to grab hold of pieces of a story that has been swimming through my mind for a couple of years.  You see, I started a project about three years ago.  My lunch time project, I called it.  No matter what other book I was working on (ORLEANS, as it turned out, for much of that time), I also worked on another story.  But I only wrote it long hand, and I only wrote at lunch time.  You could find me sitting outside a fast food Mexican plate eating way too many chicken nachos, and scribbling on a yellow legal pad.  I wrote without an outline (unheard of for me, like parachuting without a parachute!), and just asked myself "what would I do next if I was her?  If I was him?"  And I wrote a book.  I typed it up, patted myself on the back, and gave it to a friend who pointed out it wasn't a book so much as a novella, and what did I mean by this, that or the other?

Clearly, she hadn't been eating the nachos.  So, my brillance was just a diamond in the rough.  And I worked on it some more and at the end of a while I had my version of a noir novel.  It excited me and I thought, why not write a cycle?  Why not write an American Gothic novel to go with it, since it had some of those undertones?  Only this time I'd go whole hog and have it all-- the big spooky house, the characters drifting into madness, the heat, the confusion, the violence.  I even have a title.

But I don't work that close to the nacho place anymore, and I can't seem to find my legal pads and, if you read this blog you know I'm supposed to be working on Something Else.

But, yesterday, I found myself on the freeway driving past my location and I thought about the story.  A lot.  And decided I'd outline it this weekend.  If only I could get a grip on more than just the idea of it.  A gist is not a story.  It's a gist.

Sometimes you see images of a story.  At least I do.  Pictures flash in my head.  If I'm very still and have a pen and pad (or a receipt or gum wrapper) I can capture those images and coalsce them into a story.  And then, sometimes, you get the flashes, you have the pad, and all that comes out is a shopping list of what you want the story to be.

So, instead of an outline, here it is Sunday night and I am left with an image of an egg sliding out of a teflon-coated frying pan.  This is my brain.  It's empty.  Maybe that's a sign.  Time to replenish the creative well.  I will try to look at art this weekend, and hear music, and maybe read ABSALOM! ABSALOM! again  (that Faulkner, what a nut). 

And maybe one day my brilliant cycle of Southern Californian Gothic Noir will be a real live salmon/egg/story on a plate in front of you.

In the meantime, back to that Something Else.  I swear, it's coming along.  (It is!)