Brainstorm

I’m very excited primarily about the challenge of completing a novel in one month, particularly since I’ve written  novels; the most recent took me two years to complete. Since I have 2 other full time jobs (mom & teacher), I usually write on weekends (when I have time), then go into full-on creative mode during the summer. I prefer editing as I go instead of pouring all of the words out to edit/revise later. My thoughts are always so far ahead of my fingers that I need to take intermittent breaks to allow them to catch up. I re-read, revise, and begin again. Usually, before I begin, I have a good sense of the main characters (I work out their sketches tediously) and a sketchy idea of where I want the story to go. Taking copious notes along the way, to keep track of the details to ensure their fluidity throughout.

Realizing that I’ll need to alter my process somewhat is part of the challenge. I’ve been tossing some ideas around in my head. Who I am kidding?? I’ve become obsessed with working out the main character, her “back” story and the architecture. If I am uber organized before it begins, I’m hoping that will allow my thoughts to flow without too many interruptions.

Once my main character takes on her own voice, usually after a chapter or so, she makes her own decisions. I’m not even exaggerating that. I think it’s true for every writer, but, I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. At some point in the story, the main character(s) come alive for me and literally write their story (which is part of the allure of writing, for me, I think because sometimes the story doesn’t go where I had planned it to).

I’m thinking for this project, I want my story to be very character driven. I’m thinking sassy/ sarcastic, unlike the main characters in my other novels. I’m trying not to make this about the end product– I’m viewing this experience as an exercise in both character development and experimenting with style/voice that I don’t usually write.

So here are my goals:

1) create a strong, central character with depth and flaws, who is oddly charming. She needs to be familiar to me, but someone different than I’ve even written. The most important thing is to find her voice and allow her to blossom fully. I want to learn about this kind of person through the process.

2) work on the “story” in advance, so I’m not stopped wondering where to go. I            want to remove any of the logistical obstacles that may arise, so I can just go            with the flow.

3) focus on the process as an exercise instead of the project. The final result, in            my head, needs to be nothing more than completing this challenge (one novel,            one month, 50K words)

4) stay committed and focused. Write every day. Make time for writing; it’s the            priority this month.

5) have fun being in the moment with the character without taking in any of the            periphery.

So let me take you through my brainstorm, thus far.

Immediately after signing up, I go outside to my thinking place– by the pool & pond in our yard. I do my best thinking there. It’s a beautiful clear day, and I think Claire. It’s a pretty name, I have a student named Claire who reminded me how much I liked the name. Then I’m thinking teacher. I KNOW teachers. Claire is going to be a teacher. And English teacher of course, but not high school– that’s too close; I’d be too inclined to make it memoir(ish), and I don’t want it to be that. So, I’ve weeded out what I don’t want it to be. Hmm… a middle school teacher. I’ve can conceive of being any kind of teacher but a middle school teacher. That’s a different beast altogether. What if I write a story about all of my reasons for NOT wanting to be a middle school teacher? I can totally exaggerate the life of a middle school teacher while loosely drawing on my own experiences. Claire, the middle school, language arts teacher who is unhappy with her job. Hmm… what makes her unhappy with her job? She didn’t want to be a middle school teacher– she wanted to be a teacher of ideas (or, perhaps, deep down she didn’t want to be a teacher at all); instead, the is saddled with kids in the middle who are going through identity crisis’s. Okay, so, this Claire is going through an identity crisis of her own. HA! That parallels that of her kids, only she’s older. But not too old. Twenty-six. No boyfriend. No success with boyfriends. She’s desperately seeking a boyfriend (while all of her friends are thinking about marriage!) So what does a desperate, twenty-something woman do to find a boyfriend? LOOK! Everywhere. Cafes, gyms, blind dates, online. I will have Claire update her profile on matchmaker sites throughout the novel. Desperately seeking clarity… the title? She is seeking clarity to her life in her work and personal at the same time while she is teaching kids who are seeking clarity, too. Okay, the twist. I need a twist.

It takes me hours to find the twist. I’ve long since come back inside and go about the routine of my day. My husband tries talking to me and his words become muffled by my thoughts. I am literally obsessed with finding my twist. Facebook provides me with the answer I’m looking for as I come across a post with Shakespeare’s picture on it. A Play!!

Claire is tasked with running the school play. Against her will. So what would put her in this situation? Hmm… tenure. She’s earning tenure and she feels by turning it down, she’d ruin her chances at tenure, since she hasn’t been the best or most motivated or eager teacher– she’s backed into a corner. and, and, AND… the worst part is, she was a theater major who flunked out of theater in college. So, there will be demons to face there.

The last detail of the brainstorm came after talking with my son about college and his room mates, one of whom he described as a nerd who is so obsessed with the way he looks that he plays dress up at night, spends hours in the mirror, and irons his clothes (all of them, down to his skivvies) in the hallway. I need this character in my book. People think he’s gay, but he’s not. He’s the librarian, and Claire needs his help (although she is weirded-out by his very presence).

There it is… my brainstorm. Ahh… I can relax for a little bit. I have a story.

CHARACTER…

I’m not quite not sure how one teaches character or builds it. I think being a good role model is the best way to teach character– by being kind, selfless, compassionate, empathetic. Building character seems to come more from overcoming obstacles– personal tests of morality and emotion.

Ryan– In Ryan’s senior year of high school, he’d spent four years playing for the CHS Varsity Hockey Team, playing consistently each year, most especially his senior year. However, in his four years of playing, he’d only been on the starting line-up twice, something that mattered (if not to all hockey players), to Ryan. I’m not sure if it was the thrill of hearing his name called out or the recognition of confidence in his abilities as a player, but it was considered an honor for Ryan. Even when Ryan’s team was playing more consistently than the “first” line, the coach never started the line he was playing on. Game after game it was the same line in the starting line-up.

Nate, one of Ryan’s teammates, had made the hockey team two of his four years, but never played consistently– more often than not, he was lucky if he got a shift out on the ice in a given game, and some games that shift never even came. At tryouts his senior year, he had been told by the coach he could be part of the team but not to expect varsity playing time. Nate just wanted to be part of the team, so he accepted the coach’s terms.

On Senior night, playing against our #1 rival, a night all seniors look forward to as they are celebrated at the beginning of the game, traditionally, coaches start their seniors, regardless of what line they usually play on. This game was no exception, except that there was not enough spots for all seniors to start on the first line up (the one that their names were to be announced at the beginning of the game). There was one person, one senior, who wouldn’t be able to start. Ryan described this as listening before the game to the coach calling out the names of the seniors to start: George, Tyler, Ryan C, Ryan H, Alan, and Eric. Nate’s name was the only name not called.

Ryan approached the coach and told him he was giving up his spot to Nate– he wanted Nate to have the opportunity just once in his CHS hockey career to be a starter.

(As an aside, 3 of the seniors started every single game their senior year, one of them started every game for 3 years of CHS hockey career, and not one of them volunteered to give up their spot.

And the coach never even acknowledged the character Ryan displayed, but he did start Nate.)

Tyler– Also inTyler’s senior year of high school, he’d decided to attend the first football game of the season on the fan bus. It was a home game despite being moved to a different locale (because they were in the process of putting turf on our field), so the school wanted to attract as many students as possible by providing a bus. Permission slips needed to be signed for the kids to ride.Tylerwent to the game, leaving his car at the high school, with his friends on the bus. While at the game, one ofTyler’s friends got drunk to the point of almost passing out. Because the field was “crawling w/ cops” andTylerdidn’t want his friend to be arrested, he circumvented the exit by taking him through the woods to the parking lot where he called a friend to ask for a ride back toCheshireto make sure his drunk friend made it home safely. Only,Tylerdid not tell the school officials who were running the bus for fear that his friend would be suspended or turned over to the cops. While Tyler was in route to getting his friend safely to the car of the driver who’d agreed to drive them home, my husband got a phone call from the athletic director saying if Tyler didn’t return to the bus, he’d be facing possible suspension to school and risking his captaincy for the hockey season. We calledTylerto find out what was going on and relay the message from the A.D..Tylerknew we were mad because, at this point, we were questioning whether or not he’d been drinking too.

We advised Tyler to drop his friend off and meet the A.D. at the bus (where he had to pick up his own car anyway), so he could tell the A.D. what had happened and show him that he was sober. However, whenTylergot to his friend’s house, his parents were not home.Tylercalled them from his friend’s phone and summoned them home. By the time they’d arrived, the school officials were long gone.

Tyler arrived home, visibly shaken. Teary eyed, which he never is, he explained that he realized the consequences, but he wasn’t about to leave his friend in that state nor was he prepared to turn him over which he knew would lead his friend to face discipline. On Monday morning, he went to the Athletic Director to explain the circumstances and face whatever consequences awaited him.

Alexa– I believe this was in the fourth grade. Alexa was going on a field trip w/ her class– it escapes me to where. But there was a boy in her class named Eric who had special needs and had to take a bus for the handicapped to and from school, in addition to any field trips he could attend. When Alexa arrived home from school, she told me that she volunteered to ride on the bus w/ Eric, so he didn’t have to be alone. I remember her saying, “I have a lot of friends, mom. Eric really doesn’t, so I told Mrs. _ that I’d ride w/ him.”

Sometimes, my children are my role models. I call it reciprocal teaching. I’m proud they are mine ❤ ❤ ❤