Thursday, August 13, 2009

Water Parks and Plots

I took my 11- and 8-year-old daughters, Delaney and Audrey (pictured in the photo on the right), to the Aquaboggin Water Park in Saco, Maine, yesterday. Five-dollar hamburgers, stale pool water, sunburns, and screaming kids everywhere. Overwhelming. But also, as my mother, now known as Nana, (“Nana, look! Nana, watch this!”) said so accurately, it was “a day spent making memories.”

Each time the girls would finish a wild joyride, one of them would spot the next potential conquest, yell, “Hey, look,” and point. The sisters would look at each other for a moment, somehow telepathically determining if they could survive the next experience—they’re sweaty-palmed dad giving a thumbs-up, nixing the decision, or getting dragged into the mix to accompany those in the group who failed the 54-inch height test (Audrey’s fist pump and exuberant shout of “Finally!” when her scalp peaked over the 48-inch mark on the wall, and thus earning her a green bracelet meaning she could go on all the same rides that her sister could, was worth the price of admission)—and then we would all dash off again, unsure of what would occur next but smiling ear to ear nonetheless.

The experience, when you think about it, is not unlike fiction writing. Each day, I sit down to write for one reason: To get the high of finding out what will happen next.

A writer friend once told me she wrote 30-page outlines, complete with dialogue, for each of her novels. I couldn’t imagine doing that. Stephen King, in his book On Writing, discusses the thrill of “being the first reader” of his works. He describes writing fiction in terms of archeology, saying the story is always intact, and that it is the writer’s job to get it out of the earth that is the author’s subconscious without breaking it.

I would never compare myself to Stephen King. But I do write for the same reason—for that rush that accompanies discovering what will happen next in the first draft of my story. (You’ll notice I do not say what should happen next. Should is the internal editor’s job. He comes in during the second drafts and often ruins all the fun.) I have other passions—golf, weightlifting, and fishing among them—but none compare with the thrill of writing fiction.

Hell, it’s almost as fun as being at the water park.


Vicki Delany said...

I like Nana's comment. I was at the pick-your-own apple orchard one fall with my now adult daughters and we were having fun remembering how we used to come there when they were little. As we were leaving a car drove up and three little girls spilled out, and my eldest, Caroline, said, They're here to make memories, just like we did.

LABANAN said...

I am so with you John! Now, mid-stream of my revision process I am paying the penalty but hey - if there wasn't some struggle what would be the point? I can't wait to find out what the gang in the book are going to get up to next. Why, I had to stop my last novel in the middle when my main character up and moved from Nova Scotia to southern Alberta. I was born there but it was a long time ago and I can't afford to visit just yet!

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