Thursday, May 3, 2012

Write Me

One of the best pieces of feedback I've gotten for the [non-]horror novel so far is a reader saying that the main characters seemed to be eating an awful lot, constantly sitting down to meals. She said would probably be too upset to eat most of the time. Due to my blood sugar issues, I'm constantly thinking about my next meal, and I know I transferred that to the book in a way it doesn't really belong. The problem upon revision is what activity I can give my characters to gather them all together periodically so they can have conversations. There aren't any TVs where they are, and it's hard to imagine them just kind of sitting together in the same room with no purpose to the gathering.

I gave it some thought, and hey, you know, maybe they'd play cards. It feels like an antique activity to me, but what do you do when you're stuck in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of other people? You do what your grandparents did. I had a brainwave that one of the characters could play clock solitaire, a game I played when I was a little girl (I was an only child), because, you know, the book is about time and it's clock solitaire. But I couldn't remember how to play clock solitaire, and I'd need to know that to put it in the book.

I looked it up on the internet, but the instructions on the internet were completely different from the way my mom taught me to play, and much more complicated. The notion wouldn't leave me be last night, before I went to sleep, that I had to remember how to play. It felt a little desperate that I couldn't recall. So I unearthed a deck of cards in my house and laid out the clock on my bed.

After a few rounds, I remembered how I used to play, but it took the physical act of laying out the cards to jog my brain. The cards I found have never been used, to my memory, and they were slippery, sliding toward me over the sheets. And I couldn't win a hand. I was tired, and ready to sleep, but I was just determined to win a round before I put the cards away and went to sleep. I played for nearly half an hour, the pre-sleep white-noise app on my phone creating a thunderstorm around me, and ultimately never did win. I want very much to go back to it this morning, to play until I manage to organize the cards in the proper way. And I can't cheat. I cheated at Solitaire when I was a lass, but I'm too damn old to do it now and look myself in the mirror.

Part of what wouldn't let me alone about this experience was the deck of cards itself. The only cards I knew we had in the house - unless I had given them to charity, which I thought I might have, and I was so relieved when I found them in the little drawer where they've likely been sleeping for about five years - was a deck of Marilyn Monroe playing cards given to me by an ex-boyfriend. He gave me a lot of little Marilyn things like this, because I got interested in her while we were together. The idea of the novel I want to write about her had started to stir and wake even then, all those years ago. Marilyn magnets and bargain Marilyn photography books and a Marilyn purse, he gave me. I still have most of it.

Last night, the pictures of her on these cards were...haunting is the wrong word. She doesn't haunt me; she's too alive, too dynamic to haunt. Mesmerizing isn't quite the right word either, too dark. Impelled me, these cards did, implored me: write my book, Kat. Write me. Set me forth, the way you've been telling yourself you will for six years.

I've got to finish the sci-fi story, about which I'm pretty confident, and I'm thinking of doing a couple of other, smaller projects in between, but the Marilyn book is the Next Big Thing. I'm just ultra-anxious about it, too anxious to begin. I made a start on it years ago, and my pages were rotten. Too fawning, too personal. I have a decent story and thematic construct in my head, which is more than I had then, but I'd like to have a better handle on it all before I get going. A lot of books about her (some claiming to have new information and insight) have come out in the last six or seven years, and I really should read some of them, not depend solely on Spoto. I'd also like to be sure that it's not going to implode once I get in there. But I guess you can never really know that, right?


Denise said...

I used to play that game when I was a kid too, and I think it's awesome for the story. Actually, it's really hard to win because there's no skill, it's just how the cards fall. And I think that's an interesting metaphor to place in the story. Can't wait to see how it comes out!

Katharine Coldiron said...

Congratulations, this was the 100th comment! You have won my gratitude.

I tried playing some more today, and I came up with a variation that helps you win a little bit more often. But no luck at all trying to win the way I used to play. Dealing takes more time than actual play, it's so easy to lose! You're right, it's a great metaphor.