Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'll Name This Post Later

I have a couple of personal motto's that I steadfastly follow ...

Lettuce is the Devil. (actually lettuce is merely the ringleader. I eat no vegetables unless they are fried a deep delicious golden brown)

Never do today, what you can put off until tomorrow.
Yes, my friends, I am a procrastinator.
Ever hear someone say, everyone is good at something - they just need to find their niche?

I believe that to be true and I am hear to say luckily I have settled in quite nicely with my procrastination. First, by day, I am a Postal Worker. What is more fitting for a self proclaimed procrastinator to be than am employee of the Federal Government?
And secondly, I am a writer. And let me tell you every fiction writer needs to learn the fine art of putting something off. I'm not talking about the actual process of writing. You have to do that otherwise you are not a writer -- you're a dreamer. Saying or thinking, One of these days I'm going to write a novel, does not make you a writer. Putting ink on paper does. It is my belief you can call yourself an author once you signing your name at the bottom of a publishing contract. So right now I can say I am a short story author and a novel writer.

Still with me? Good.

Back to the part about needed to be a procrastinator. See how good I am at putting things off.

Francesca falls in love with a photographer named Robert while her husband and children are away. Robert and her share a brief time of passion and he urges her to go away with him, but in the end she chooses to stay behind in her bland marriage and continue to be a wife and mother.

That is pretty much the entire story of The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller. Now I know the book is often panned and criticized but no one can argue that it was a huge commercial success. I happen to be one of the few people I know who will actually admit to liking the novel, but I wouldn't have if it had been anything like the above version.

It is the doubt of the outcome, the question of what each character will do that propels a story forward. Put off revealing that little detail that clearly spells out whether a character is a hero or a villain. Delay that scene that make it obvious your first person narrator is unreliable. So you female protagonists is madly in love with her next door neighbor. Don't let me as a reader know right off the bat that he too is madly in love with her and can't wait to kill his wife so they can be together. Make that wife's car wreck look like an accident. Keep me guessing, wondering. Try a bit of procrastination in your story.

But, there's aways a but isn't there? Don't just add filler. Add characterization. Smaller conflicts that your characters must work through before the big climax is even possible. Throw is a red herring or three.

Think of it as dating. If the minute you walked up to a girl and asked her to dance and she said, "I'd love to, but first let me tell you a few things -- "My ex boyfriend is in prison for stabbing the president of his Hell's Angel's chapter but he's getting released next month. My mom is a meddling old bitty. I like to nag and spend money I don't have. I don't really enjoy sex all that much, and I collect tiny porcelain chihuahuas."

You might, if you are a really nice guy go ahead with that first offered dance but you'd cut and run after that regardless of how attractive you found her to be.

Too much information too early on is never a good thing. Trust me on that. Wait until you hear that I do to announce, My father's back in covered in hair and therefore I'm bound to look like Chewbacca within a few years. Trust me, she'll learn to live with it then.


Monnik said...

Ha. I love how you explained this.

"Lettuce is the Devil." I saw the movie The Heartbreak Kid this weekend and there's a part where a guy smells pot and says, "What's that smell? It smells like someone's smoking the Devil's Lettuce over here." Bwah. Funny stuff.

I didn't care for Bridges of Madison County, and I got married right in front of one of those bridges! But I was still stinging from my parents' divorce which was caused by infidelity on my mom's part, so it struck a nerve. (The movie was beyond terrible, though.)

Patti said...

the bridges book was a gift to me by a friend whose taste is usually similar to mine. i hated that book, and was just yesterday talking about how something i hated so much turned into such a pot of gold.

so if i ever read anything of yours and then make a gagging spitting motion, man, you will so be about to hit it big...

Katrina said...

Travis! A hairy back? And you have the nerve to ask why women pluck their eyebrows? But I do agree the drawn in eyebrows are scary.

I also loved the book--Bridges of Madison County. The unattainable love is heart breaking. A lot of people didn't like it but what a huge success. Explain that? Especially in a society where there is lots of infidelity.

What I do find interesting is I think this was the only book the author wrote that was worth beans.
His next book (can't remember the name because it was so bad) was a huge flop. Must have been extremely disappointing to him & the publisher.

alex keto said...

"Saying or thinking, One of these days I'm going to write a novel, does not make you a writer."

Whoa, dude. Boy, that's harsh.

Saying and thinking I'm a writer is my strongest suit, about my only success so far, and you just blew it away.

So... what else do you do in your free time? Tell six year olds the Easter bunny is a bunch of hooey and Santa Claus is just some fat old drunk at the mall?

Good point, Katrina, on getting Chewbacca to face the music,

Phats said...

I used to hear something else said about procrastination comparing it to Masturbation ;) not really PG related haha.

I love a good salad.

Did I miss the latest ref story??

Design Goddess said...

I'll leave my comment tomorrow.

Travis Erwin said...

monnik - All things green ar ethe devil's lettuce.

Patti - I have already had people have that reaction to my writing and thus far it hasn't helped.

Katrina - What am I suppsoed to do pluck the back ahir and then draw little squigglies to simulate it?

Alex - You didn't just say it you actually wrote it. I've even read it and enjoyed it. Jsut wait until Christmas time when I start telling my tales about the year I played Santa at the mall.

phats - No new ref tales lately but I'll try to get one up soon. And I'd rather you tell me you're a sooner fan than to say you love a good salad. Besides, there are no good salads.

Design goddess - that's the spirit.

alex keto said...

Yep, I'm looking forward to those Santa tales alright.

Ello said...

That was awesome! Great post on procrastinating and writing! Very interesting analogy. It is the creation of tension through the withholding of information. Very cool! I am in the middle of redoing my WIP because I realized I had way too much information too early and it was bogging down the narrative.

Stephen Parrish said...

"My ex boyfriend is in prison for stabbing the president of his Hell's Angel's chapter but he's getting released next month. My mom is a meddling old bitty. I like to nag and spend money I don't have. I don't really enjoy sex all that much, and I collect tiny porcelain chihuahuas."

Oh, if only I'd known.

I thought Bridges was a good novel. But when merely "good" novels catapult to the top of the list (Love Story is another example) they're villified for not being great novels.

Shauna said...

I found the movie Bridges to be a terribly long, drawn out sort of torture. Actually painful to watch. Never read the book and probably never will. There are too many GREAT novels to read to take a chance on one that could be a waste of time.

And the "salad" I was talking about, if you close your eyes when you eat it, you can forget there's lettuce even in it.

alternatefish said...

yay procrastination! I like how you tied it into writing beyond just the normal "writers putting off writing" angle.

that salad-face was terrifying, and I actually kind of like vegetables.

sorry I haven't been around much recently, I do still read your blog. I just keep getting distracted chasing after William and Harry...

Bernita said...

Thank you.
Read this at a point where I was wondering if I should spill the beans ( it's veggie, too.)

Beth said...

Porcelain chihuahuas aren't sexy to guys? Now I totally need to find a new pick up line. Thanks!

Charles Gramlich said...

Evil looking lettuce mask. Is it good for the skin? I never read either of Waller's books. Not really my genre, although I have one of them around here somewhere.

Mr. Shife said...

I must be a writer because I have procrastinated chapter two of my book for more than 5 years now. Someday I keep telling myself but then I see that someday is not on the calendar. Never read Bridges or even saw the movie so I don't have much to add there, but I do like lettuce.
Have a good weekend.

preTzel said...

Travis --- Bic. Just one word: Bic. And I have a picture in my mind now of a man holding up a fish in a corn maze with a big hairy back with painted on eyebrows with lettuce on his face. Thank you for that visual that will be forever burnt in to my cortex. Thank YOU!

As for procrastination? I can not answer that right now as I am contemplating if I want to do the dishes today or tomorrow and if I should do laundry tomorrow or wait until Sunday. So...I'll get back to you on that.

Jenster said...

Never do today, what you can put off until tomorrow.

Is this a bad thing? Because I live by this motto. It's my creed.

Penelope said...

Chewbacca rocks!!!

That picture totally freaked me out (the lettuce-- not Chewbacca).

I will admit to reading The Bridges of Madison County in one afternoon about fifteen years ago. And then I threw up. Sorry, Travis, my friend, but the novel is sacrin (sp???).

That's OK, you still are way cool.

-- P

Phats said...

MMMM I love a good salad with some Grilled Chicken on top of it, topped with tons of Ranch Dressing. Seriously Ranch Dressing is the best I could eat it plain

preTzel said...

Phats - Put ranch dressing on a baked potato. YUM!~

Bluefingers said...

Travis, Fried vegetables are not good for you despite the so called vegetable inside the fatty dough.

But then again, fried green tomatoes, fried okra and fried onions are some of my favorite veggies.

And don't forget the fried corn.

Have you ever fried eggplant? LOL..

Will mail you some if you want.

As far as the bridges. I don't care for it at all. Period.

Alex...You are a writer. Don't let the demons of self doubt creep up on you. Even if that demon comes in the form of lettuce.

Your great Travis.


Terrie Farley Moran said...

Hi Travis,

This was really a very informative post about writing, and the picture of Chewbacca is pretty cool too.


jayme with a y said...

THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY rocked! I'm not afraid to admit it. I bawled like a baby at the end. Proud, yes because she chose the right and stayed with her family. But hurt because she lost her authentic love. It wasn't like she hooked up with the Fuller Brush was more complicated than that!

I love the way you , via procrastination point out the way all human traits have positive aspects if channeled properly...for example, my passionate, dramatic scenes that occur when I do not get my way....charge a couple of bucks a viewing and have theatre! YOU'RE BRILLIANT!

No really, you're brilliant...Keep 'em coming!