Monday, January 07, 2008

Full Circle

Posted by Lisa

"I saw the stringy-haired girl one time.In a bowling alley in New Hampshire. It was raining out. The drizzle woke me and stayed for the day, a guest my parents never invited to our Lake Winnipesaukee cottage.That day my dad drove the five of us to Wolfeboro, to give us something to do. My sister, brother, our neighbors, Kathy and Scott. I was twelve, I think. Or thirteen. My dad gave us money, for snacks, sodas, shoe rentals, and three straight hours of strings.


The girl in the bowling alley was my age, thereabouts. She watched me, the whole time. I wondered what she saw. I glanced at her often, wondering why her dad looked so young and why her mom never spoke to her. She was someone lonely, with sad eyes that even a day of bowling wouldn't change. She was longing for a friend, longing for a lot of things. I think she would have liked a Coke. I sipped mine through two skinny straws.

Like any writer, anywhere, images stay with me. I have a picture of that girl – in my mind. It's next to a little boy I once saw trying to surf on washed up driftwood. We all have those photo albums. Sometimes I flip through the pictures. They tell snippets of stories. Things that never sat right with me. Things I didn't understand. I worried about those people. I write about them now, giving them names, and circumstances. I make up worlds for them to live in. I need to fill in the answers for the questions I had about them.”

The above was from a blog entry I made aver a year ago, and for over a year, I have been trying to complete a YA novel. It’s changed, tremendously, as my writer’s group can attest, but the story, the plot, has never been clear to me. This has made it hard, torturous, really. Plot, I’ve discovered, is my weakness in writing. Why did I choose to set my story in New Hampshire? It was all because of that stringy-haired girl. Only, where was she in my novel? Believe it or not, nowhere.

Over the last few days, I have been struggling with plot (arrgggh! No great shock in that). Like a mouse in a maze, I keep hitting dead ends. Today, I realized, I must listen to that stringy-haired girl; she’s in my novel, finally(with hair not so stringy anymore), but she is why I started this novel, and she must help me finish it. I have to listen to her. Will she give me the answers I need?

I certainly hope so.

10 comments:

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Lisa, I'm taken with that stringy-haired girl just from your description and the things you don't know about her--like her parents. I know what it's like to have a character lingering on the edges and you feel in your bones she's got a story to tell and you can't find it. Yet. I think she's starting to talk to you and I can't wait to read the story she finally tells you.

Lisa said...

I can relate to the plotting challenges. I have a head full of characters who have stayed with me all of my life and I know there are a million stories swirling around all of them. I think about who I thought they might be when I first "collected" them and who I was when they first made such and impression and I wonder what might have become of them. Some of them have whispered to me when I was least expecting it and they've told me more about what their stories might be. I haven't yet unlocked the secret to getting them to tell me at my convenience :)

Larramie said...

Yes, Lisa, the stringy-haired girl will give you the answers because you've given her identity and, finally, attention. She needs you as much as you need her. Enjoy getting to know each other.

Therese said...

Lisa, I'm so with you on this plotting issue! I feel like that mouse in the maze every day I write.

Because it's the characters who make the story, I have to weigh in and agree that your New Hampshire girl will lead you.

Carleen Brice said...

I feel and share your pain!! Plot is hard, but sounds like you're struck on the right answer.

Wayne said...

I liked the description of the girl with stringy hair. Your story is being worked at and will come.

I'm as a prisoner. I hold in my hands a 10 lb hammer. If I hammer long enough, my big rock is turned to small stones.

Lisa Marnell said...

Thanks, all, for your supportive comments.

I will keep pounding at this, as we all do who read this blog. Perhaps these efforts will lead to (gulp) a story that actually works.

My fingers are crossed for all of you.

Mardougrrl said...

Late, but wanted to comment on this one because plotting is truly my biggest problem in writing. Like Lisa above, I have a bunch of characters that speak to me, but when I try to write about them, I end up with character sketches and case studies instead of fully realized plot/stories. Sigh.

I read so many writing books but I have yet to find THE one on plotting that really helps. Anyone else?

Lisa Marnell said...

Mardougrrl,

I found the book for us - in a box in my study, no less. It's called Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell.

In the half hour I read it I heard a couple bells ringing.

Carleen Brice said...

Story by Robert McKee really helped me.