“And What have I Learned so far…?”

(and that is the worst auto-cropping ever =(  )

I had no direct plan for this morning. I had the crazy thought yesterday that I’d do some sunrise walks, since my window faces the morning sun (yeah, that’s the reason, apparently). But then, I forgot that it would be in the negative degrees in the early morning, so I scrapped that idea. It’s my mistake, really, I just thought it was Springtime in the goddamn continental US.

Alternately, I have my last children’s book to read (no, not ever!) before a return trip to the library. I haven’t started it yet and starting a story is always a good boost of inspiration. Or, at the very least, exposure to something new.

And finally, I’ve been neglecting my writing exercises in favor of going right into story-working. I don’t know if that’s been better or not. And I’ve discovered that with a vaguely general, though detailed in minutes, outline to follow, there’s still a lot of questions about “what…?” and “how…?” Not so much for the story, but just how to write it.

I watched two very interesting movies in the last three days. So much so that I’ve watched both of them twice (including “101 Dalmatians,” but that isn’t really relevant outside of the “Finally!” for watching it), the first was the most recent “Goosebumps” movie (2015). I remember reading these stories as a kid, strangely, amid reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz. And I can say, that despite the differences in language and means, there’s a definite pattern (formula) to horror-writing. It’s true for any genre, I’m sure.

This wasn’t a bad movie, but it wasn’t great. It was pure “cheez,” to use an industry term, aka “schmaltz.” I’ll give it credit, though, if you were paying attention, it was like one long writing lesson (which they almost reference). It is a horror film, but you’d forget that watching the first quarter of the movie where you meet the initial kids and their struggles. It was nice.

Of course, I can’t describe any other part of the movie, as that will give away its twists and such. 10-12yr olds is who it was made for? I don’t know. I’ve discovered that, like age, I’m no good at guessing age groups.

But, the second movie was the one that really got to me. It’s going to sound so weird to say, but it was “the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” There’s a lot about this movie that I just don’t understand, because there just isn’t connection in my life like that. Granted, in the movie, there’s tragedy involved everywhere to make or force that bond. Early on in the film, (opening sequence of intros), the line is, “Together, it seemed we made one single, complete person.”

From a writing standpoint, it’s so close to perfect, it’s scary. The four girls are very different (diversity), born together, for the most part, grow up together, become the best of besties. As stated, each character (except one for contrast) has some horrible event in the past (or present), they all have their flaws (though I’d bet parents would see the movie differently)… and so on.

It’s an interesting story, in their first summer apart, the four friends create the sisterhood of the pants to help keep them joined. The pants themselves may/may not be magic, that’s the “mystery.” The course of the movie follows each girl as they travel (or stay behind) and what happens. It’s in the same genre as my book, the “Coming of age” story, but because each girl experiences something, it’s four-in-one.

It’s emotional. Very much so and it ends happily enough, but are there really friends that deep? That close? Of course there are!

It’s the easy argument that the story has infinite appeal to me for that reason, because I believe in greater experiences than my own, and during any time that I remember, I’ll have to look for the book. I’m a little leery of the sequels, only because it would seem like such an alignment of “the right stuff” would only happen once in a lifetime. (Well, film-wise, there’s four books.) I’m not embarrassed to say that I really liked this movie, it got to me, big time. I’d like to think, in the most optimistic sense, that this movie gives some examples of how to treat people like…people.

Ah, and that’s how I learned, after reading, that “Mom” in my story is a “weak” character. It’s not the way that I envisioned her, either, it’s just the way that I wrote her. I’ve made a note of it so I can go back and change things around if I need to. That’s probably second draft work anyway. (< ?) But, the alternate is that she “blossoms” into a stronger character, even following the underlying theme of following her dream. Or whatever, the point being that she experiences growth like all the other characters. If I leave her as a weak character, it might seem out of place for such an extreme development, but it would make a great example out of what can happen for you when you do what you love.

I’m not writing Sophie as “superstitious” as I wanted her to be originally, too. She’s more prejudiced, but I think that’s the driving note I need for her, since she’ll be the last to come around by book’s end.

In that regard, I’m pluggin’ away in part IV, which is the area of Dad’s last days of the house, Monday’s last days of the house, and then everyone else’s last days of the house. The problem I am facing is that even after Dad storms off to follow his dream, Mom ends up moving to OH anyway. Why would she fight so hard to stay in GA, only to go back there?

In my outline I have that she speaks to Grandma a lot, so I can only hope that I come up with some decent dialogue there. Dialogue, itself, has been tricky, but as much as I want to remember “this is the first draft!” some stuff has to be said, otherwise I’ll never know what my base is supposed to be.

I’m discovering that there’s a loss of energy, too, but that’s because my physical routine has diminished a great deal. That’s something I’ll have to work into the new revision of the schedule. It isn’t going to be warm today, but if it doesn’t rain, I’ll go for a nice walk in the afternoon. I’ll just be so bundled against the cold that I’ll barely get any sunshine, but maybe it’ll be enough to help recharge my batteries a little.

Today’s story goal is to tell how Sophie came to America from Liverpool, England, (the last of?) an unique set of Lab-Chow puppies that were sold on the internet. I wrote some “filler” for this story, including a small back-piece about Sophie’s mom and dad, Song and Albert, with some intention of returning to it later. I’ve all but forgotten it now, I’m thankful I kept it in my notes. (But of course I did.)

The few things that I really need from it are some reason that Dad might want to get a puppy in the first place. At this point in the family’s history, Katie is still living at home and Justin is not born yet for another year (or two?). Katie does leave home shortly thereafter, after Sophie’s “puppy days,” and Justin is born soon after (in retaliation to an “empty” house?). In following theme with his and Mom’s arguments, it could be a present (anniversary) as Mom loves animals, but as a device to alleviate loneliness.

I don’t know if “being lonely” is a trait that makes a character strong or not. I never wrote in that Mom had a job doing payroll. In one version, it’s how she finds out that his restaurant is doing badly. It’s been easier to avoid altogether, which is why I could make the easy excuse that Mom should just undergo a radical “change” at the end. Working with her family at the pizza kitchen, rocks, and sewing. It sounds terrible to type out that way, but I do have a particular plan. For the rocks? No, not so much. I had the ideas about them too late, though when I go back and change the story completely, they may play a bigger role.

And worse, somehow, I’ve subverted myself in that all my lovely “theming” about theme was useless, because the theme that I really wanted to write about took over on its own. Which is cool, that’s how it’s supposed to work, but then I have to wonder what all that other stuff was about?

Well, the hour’s over and it’s time to move on to real thing. Needless to say, the “planning hour” will be towards Sophie’s excellent journey. An anniversary gift is just too easy, though it is one of the few times in a year that a husband might give a wife a gift. I know this even though I’m not married. Yes, research!

-j.

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