I think there are two exceptionally memorable episodes of the Cosby show. Not that I actually remember the plots, there were just segments of the two episodes that left a significant impression in the clay of my recollections (assuming, of course, that my memories are accurate). The first episode that always leaps to mind is one where the whole Cosby clan put on a show for the grandparents by strutting and lip-syncing along to a jazz record. That’s So Rudy got to pretend to sing some of the funniest parts. The second episode that I always associate with the series is one where I recall Bill Cosby and a guest star doing a little dance battle. The guest star would do some fancy tap dancing and then shout challenge so that it sounded like “Chah-LONJ”. Bill Cosby would do some fancy footwork in return, and this went for a while.
I thought of the latter episode as I drove home on Thursday night because Abigail just challenged me to join her on a quest.
Let me pause a moment to say that if you are ever invited upon or spy the opportunity to join a Quest (and you are not opposed to the goal), you should leap at the chance. Many of us give ourselves daily, weekly, monthly, lifelong goals, and that’s all well and good (some of us have no goals and that is sad). But the goals we give ourselves must originate from some thoughts of our own, even if the goal is to acquire new thoughts or experiences. A Quest, on the other hand, is a life goal that you might not ever have devised for yourself since it came from outside your own mind. You might have…but you didn’t! For a brief while, you could walk paths you’d never otherwise tread; you might experience situations outside your wildest imaginations; at least you might pick up a souvenir along the way. Try not to pick up anything more intrusive.
Back to Abigail: she challenged me in a very affable manner to complete a novel in November. She was not so aggressive as Sandman. She would write a novel in November as well. It would not be a collaboration, just a shared activity. The Quest: with no more assistance than the reassuring existence of a metaphorical comrade-in-arms, create a 50,000 word novel in a 30 day period. I cry out, “Chah-LONJ!” and I step up.
There are many story ideas I’ve had in the past and I’ve written quite a few words to begin a book here and there, but I’ve immediately realized that wanting to write a novel feels quite different from being challenged to finish a novel. This could be good. This could be really good.
I obviously don’t seem to have much problem in typing out a pile of words in a hurry–if anything, I write too much on the Internet. It’s probably going to clog something one of these days. One of the real obstacles on this quest is The Plot. I don’t intend to write something abstract and complicated (unless that’s how it turns out, in which case that was my intention all along). Rather, I would like my novel to have a beginning, middle, and end, and I would like all of those pieces to come across to the reader as being related to each other. Protagonist and Antagonist? Yes, please. Story-related problem and climax? That would be great. Resolution and happy ending? In lieu of innuendos, I’ll just say that I’d like the story to reach a point that feels like a satisfying conclusion or a point of “Life goes on” dissipation to the narrative tension. I’ll have to work on all of that.
Another obstacle on this quest becomes clear when I consider the very sound adage that a writer should “write what he knows”. This is advice that even writers of speculative fiction should follow, so the best of them develop a World Bible for their story, even if that is wholly internalized. As a practiced reader, it’s clear to me that literature about a topic written by an author unfamiliar with said topic often fails to impress. I know almost nothing about deep sea diving, but I’ve read a good example and a bad example on that topic and the bad example was obviously full of garbage. My personal experience seems lacking to write a novel (not enough law breaking, world traveling, career changing, or general debauchery), but I won’t let that stop me. If I start writing about a topic with which I have no familiarity, I’ll attempt Internet research and then if that is insufficient, I’ll attempt some real life interviews with people who are knowledgeable. I’m hoping that a new website I’ve discovered LivePerson.com will help me if I stumble. Then, too, there are all of these social networking sites I’ve joined. Perhaps they can finally be of some practical use instead of data voyeurism.
The third great obstacle I anticipate is the task of whittling down the ideas that I’d like to include so that I can finish within the parameters specified. Laconic, I am not. I could easily annoy myself by writing a 25,000 word flashback in chapter two. That would just be embarrassing. I am going to try to help myself out by prioritizing the list of concepts I would like to include: self-interest versus selflessness, loving relationships, friendships, passage of time, confidence, independence, dogs in packs, badassness, challenge photography, traveling, energy exchange, cancer, metaphorical dancing, muppets, ramen noodle. That is a list that I just created by envisioning a story and jotting down words that described concepts I visualized, and then I reorganized it by priority, from highest to lowest. I’ll try to keep my words on ramen noodle to a minimum. I’m pretty sure I can keep that list from growing. Maybe. I’ve purchased the Scrivener software for Mac to help me be organized.
But my biggest problem today is that I want to START TODAY.
I strongly suspect I have either a penchant for obsessing, or outright problems with addiction. Ooh, Addiction! I have to add that to the list…