Wow. Posting every week? Look at me! Wonder how long I can keep this up. Anyway. The topic today, kids, is predicting the future.
No, not like that. I mean actually, scientifically, with reason and logic.
Last night, Big Bopper and I went to see 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen. Now, the last time I saw this movie I was ten years old. Yes, I saw it in its original release in 1968. And what I remembered was SCARY KILLER MONKEYS! FUTURISTIC SPACE TRAVEL! PSYCHOPATH COMPUTER! And also, my mother and aunt sitting with their mouths open in disbelief as the house lights came up after the show. (“Was that a fetus? Floating in space?”)
Some of the assumptions the director made about the future were spot-on—using credit cards instead of cash-money, flexible space suits, video phone calls—but most of the predictions of how Things Will Be in 2001 are laughable.
For instance, in 2001 all the superpowers will have moon bases where we can continue to carry on the Cold War. Also, furniture design remains frozen in time with Eames chairs. And to transfer information between computers, you need a punch card.
The point I’m making is this: The roots of the future are in the present, but if you’re a writer, you have to look beyond the obvious.
The USSR economy was unsustainable. It took decades to fall apart, but its ultimate demise was predictable, if you knew how to look at it. The integrated circuit, which would become the microchip of today, was invented in 1959. At the time, almost no one understood the implications. But now, microchips power everything from toilets to cars.
So if you’re writing science fiction or science fantasy, read science news. World politics. Business.
And let your mind wander.
It’s funny, what comforts a person.
For instance, Big Bopper loves napping on the couch to the sounds of cartoons.
Bottled Lightning loves silence.
BoyWonder likes to sit around the dining room table with his family and talk, after a big meal.
Freckles McYoungest loves a stormy afternoon, curled up with a book.
I like wind…
An unremitting sea breeze on the beach.
An afternoon gust that cools the porch and blasts away the mosquitoes on a summer evening.
I wonder if it’s because the first house I lived in, situated in a coastal town, had no air conditioning. But every room had windows designed to catch a cross-breeze.
Or, could be I’m just weird.
As writers, though, it’s interesting to think about what would comfort the characters we invent. For instance, there are times that I get a whiff of stale oil and hot engine parts, and maybe a little pee, which reminds me of the Paris Metro. Would that be a comforting smell to someone raised there? Maybe a character loves raking leaves because it reminds him of New England and maple syrup and red flannel shirts—and home?
I dunno. I ponder these things, when I write characters.
Hope I’m not weird.
I once heard a talk by a lovely Kansas SCBWI member—whose name I wish I could remember—about Walter Dean Myer’s process. It involved lengthy and detailed outlines.
At that moment, I wondered if I’d ever be a good writer.
Trouble is, I didn’t want to give up the freedom of pantsing. The interesting discoveries you make when you just let ‘er rip.
I’m starting a new story and this time, I’m making the effort to get the bones in place, first. With the caveat that I’m still free to run wild and crazy when belching out my first draft.
I hope the extra time spent pre-loading the manuscript makes me write faster. And still gives me room for those Aha! moments.
Because that’s what makes it fun.
There’s more to writing than–well, writing.
This weekend, our group of long-time writing friends is on retreat. (And no, I’m not mentioning it here on the blog to document that fact for the IRS. Though that’s a pretty good idea.)
Sure, I brought my laptop. But this is the first day I’ve fired it up–because I’ve spent the first 48 hours in our cozy cabin paradise, pondering.
I’ve spent time trying on character names, drawing maps, diagramming plot points. To dig down deep. Find the truth in my story.
Don’t get so set on word count goals and outlines that you forget to dream.
Geez Louise, I despise New Year’s resolutions. I never keep them, and don’t even remember what I resolved past January 3rd. Usually, along about October I find the notebook I was supposed to write in every morning, stuffed under the car seat or kicked under the washing machine.
Then I despair.
Not this year, bucko!
I don’t want to generate failure anymore. No more promises to work on habits and goals that I don’t really want, no matter how many Good Writers recommend them. Instead, whatever interests me, I’m just gonna do it.
And when it doesn’t float my boat anymore, I will stop.
Maybe I’ll end up making the same changes in my life that a New Year’s Resolver does, but I won’t feel like I’m being punished, and I sure won’t feel guilty if my self-improvement ideas don’t work out.
I’ve been everywhere, man. (Cue music.)
Across the deserts bare, man.
Breathed that mountain air, man.
You get the idea.
One of the things we did last week, was go on a ghost tour in Old Town, in Albuquerque.
Now, there’s some fun.
Two guides and only seven people in the group. Excellent stories, videos, pictures, EVPs, (electric voice phenomena) and history lessons.
Yes, history lessons.
It occurred to me that really, the tour boiled down to one gigantic history lesson.
Because where does a ghost come from, but the past? Whether it’s 1998 or 1698, ghosts are reminders of what came before us.
When Great Aunt Melba rattles around in the attic, we communicate with our ancestors. Union soldiers at Shiloh allow us to affirm the continuity of our country. Incan ghosts at Machu Picchu let us know that even if the glory of our civilization dies, we will not.
I’m thinking about writing a ghost story for my next novel. Of course, in order for a ghost story to be interesting it has to be more than haints floating around a dilapidated house. There has to be some sort of psychosis involved.
I’m wondering if the more the main character connects with the ghost, the more frightening it is. The better the ghost can infiltrate his psyche, and therefore, the reader’s, the more the ghost can play him like a fiddle.
I mean, aren’t we all so OVER monsters?
I dunno. Still puzzling this out. Tell me what you think.