How I Managed My Muse!byLitEroCat©
(format corrected and simplified 1/15/08)
"Don't ignore your muse. Pay close attention and do EVERY little thing she says and do nothing she advises you NOT to do."
"Hey, Hey, HEY! This is my 'How To'! Don't talk to them directly!"
"Are you arguing with ME?"
"Um, uhhhh, nope. Not I. Ummm, would you mind if I started this again? I'll tell your part as you've told me. OK? But shouldn't it be in my voice? I'll tell them how you introduced yourself and influenced the stories. This one is all about YOU. So thank you.... (you royal pain in the ...)"
"What did you say? Were you..."
"Errrum, not a thing, your highness. Why don't I start over? OK? I know you know all my thoughts, when you listen. Let me just adjust my cummerbund and bow tie, make sure my black shoes have a mirror fin..."
"Don't bullshit them! You're banging on those keys naked... and stop touching yourself there."
"HEY! Hey! Don't tell them that!" I neither confirm nor deny...." Now be nice. WOW! Here we go." Part of this narration is HOW I discovered I had a muse. Then I'll relate how to handle her. "I mean, ummm, how to honor and cater to her." SHEEESH! I'm more surprised than anyone that I'm writing. Something DROVE me to write and I learned several interesting things during and about the process. Most of those didn't come to me for months, so hopefully you can learn from my pachycephalic density. Hey, what the...! That wasn't my choice of words." Lois, did you push that thru me? Sometimes simple is better, ya know? Isn't that redundant anyway? I meant thick-headed, LET me write it that way." Sheeeeesh! I apologize for her. She's just sooo wound up with this blurb and her fifteen seconds of fame.
"THAT's a first. You've never apologized before. OK, assume the position.... you know what I mean. And, yes, I'll explain it to them shortly." As you have hopefully figured out, my muse's name is Lois. I didn't know her name until I was well into my third story, EMMANCIPATION. Yet I was unknowingly under her influence from the beginning. One day, I just HAD to write my first erotic story, The ReDating Game, and I didn't know why. So why did I? Well, I happened to be in a state of questioning my usual left-brain approach to everything. I struggled to box it out of select areas, and creative writing is an ideal testing ground with little penalty for failure.
About six months into this odyssey I began pondering why I was enjoying this writing while I HATED creative writing in school. I soon realized the process was very different. In High School and College, the topic was usually unappealing and assigned so it stifled rather than inspired the creative story. There, they structured the process and I had to create story pockets and the ultimate story solution. Then I had to fill the pockets with snippets that formed the details and connective web. Once I had a connected structure in a detailed outline, I went back to flesh out the story and add new elements and refine the characters. That wasn't exactly the process they defined, but it feebly worked for me. It was extremely LEFT-brain intensive. I didn't like it. Besides feeling pointless and forcibly contrived it was unsatisfying and I didn't want to write.
Bare [sic] with me a bit as I share the short version of what inspired changes in my outlook. In 1993, I stumbled on what arguably became the best series ever made for TV. It was a novel, written in 110 chapters! The name of the place, umm show, is Babylon 5. I made the same mistake others are still making today and prematurely judged it as just Sci Fi fluff. It is so much more and so compelling to anyone with a brain and more than a ten minute attention span.
I was hooked, but didn't know why. It was two years before I checked for websites. I then found HUNDREDS. The dozen key sites were BBS or newsgroups. Besides the usual fan info about the show and actors, I found that the creator/writer/producer, JMS, had a constant online presence. He still does, despite the happy burdens resulting from finally being recognized as a first rate writer/creator. I'm going to exclude 99% of the info on B5 since it is not my intent to sell it here. What I want to get to is Joe Michael Straczynski, aka The Great Maker, and his influence. I'll let you find his IMBD and fan site pages on your own. Go rent the DVDs. Email me if you want more info about him or the show or the preferred viewing order.
Over the years, Joe revealed tomes of personal info despite selective cautions. He's written many other stories, TV scripts, comics, plays and movies, even a book on script writing. But it was the simple complexity of B5 that awed me. I already had some idea of how hard it was to write a long story that holds together without contradictions, held readers' interest and had some significance that made it worth reading. Or so I thought. His five-year storyline for his B5 novel came to him in a single inspiration. He had details left to complete, but the major events, morals and fine tapestry all came at once. He further defined his process which dove tailed into my mind set. Though the story steps were very closely spaced, the moral and character development raced head to head and far ahead of every other element. I'm still awed that B5 works on so many levels. Kids see the sci fi/action level and if lucky they see the various allegorical levels. How many 110 chapter long books have you read ELEVEN times...so far?
Joe said that once he had the characters well defined, he no longer wrote their scenes. They wrote their own story. He described it as opening the window on their world, watching them awhile, then slamming the window and quickly writing what he saw. Their flaws appeared in the story, just as they should. It's an amazing concept. I began to wonder if I had any rich characters in me.
Late May 2006, I felt someone inside wanting to tell a story. While I'd normally ignore it, I felt the need to leave a door open so that character could walk out, or I could walk into his world. I had one more chance to ignore him, but I'd already begun my right brain experiment. "Left brain, shutdown, right brain OBSERVE." That's when I got my first story image. Rather than define the narrator in The ReDating Game, I tried echoing his elusive feelings. I got anger, confusion, despair, futility and loneliness. Left brain kicked in... Is this just a psychological reflection of me and my moods? Happily, it was not. "Left brain off, right brain contact him."
The initial, resolving image for The ReDating Game was this: A man sat alone at a four-place food court table. His left arm was extended on the table and held a blue soft drink cup. The table was the closest to a short (three foot high) wall. Many people milled past the wall, near him. He was scanning the crowd for someone special and despondent that he hadn't found her. Something told me this was NOT the beginning of the story. While describing details in that brief image, more information floated to me. Then it dissolved and was replaced by a second image. This one was closer to the start of the story.
In that fleeting image was a trestle that looked like a huge Erector set. Much later, I thought it might be a raised subway section known as the El. That same man was climbing a stanchion and was maybe five feet from the top of the six story brown structure. Capping several stanchions was a very big pressboard platform about 20x50 feet. Standing near the edge and about six feet from our man was a cameraman. He shouldered a big TV camera with several bundled cables leading away from it. About fifteen feet from the edge was another man in a dark suit. He held a corded mic and paced impatiently. When I saw him, I knew this was a TV show called The ReDating Game. A flurry of details rushed at me that fleshed out the story. They answered the questions about why he was there; how he got there; who arranged it etc.? I saw the answers in a flutter of several less distinct images.
In a final major and clear image, I saw our leading man and his long lost love. They looked like eight year olds holding hands and skipping along the sidewalk, frozen in mid skip. She was in a wide skirt with many ruffled layers under it. They didn't know yet where they were headed, but I saw what the show had arranged. About a block from the couple was an aged, small, horse drawn carriage for them. It was a weather worn brown, yet reminded me of Cinderella's pumpkin coach. The rest of the details about confusion, hope, anger etc., are in the story. Each of those images seemed to exist for no more than five seconds.
Since writing that story, I found that the seminal image for new tales almost always came the same way. It floated about two feet before my forehead, the top angling slightly toward then away from me. The image inside the 5x7 white frame often moved - like several frames from a movie - and repeated. Color or sepia, it was sometimes blurred and always disintegrated if I tried to analyze it. I sensed that this story and one other, still unwritten, would be huge challenges. Instead of writing about the narrator, I tried becoming him and writing in first person. That meant that his confusion, anger etc., would be part of the narration. If I successfully conveyed his pain and confusion, the story would likely be hard to read, but if I failed, it would be shallow. I decided not to explain his motivation, but saved it for a post script I'd publish in a year.
The cynic in me still lives. Where did the framed picture come from? Did it originate in some random neuron firestorm? Or is the firestorm the result of some other influence? If you believe in the metaphysical, you can see they come from the eddies of the energies of the universe. SOMEone WAS that narrator at some time and maybe, somehow, I began to channel him. After a year of very different images somehow crisply connecting outside me, I am convinced the energies coalesced into the persona of Lois, my muse.
Yet, when I wrote my second story, Out of the Closet, I still hadn't met Lois. The purpose of that story was to expose an exhibitionist who was painfully in denial. The seminal image for it was this: a woman stood on a balcony inside a big room. It was a formal function with a dense, mixed crowd below her that extended fully into the room. They held cocktails, top tier hors d'oeuvres etc., and kept sneaking peeks up at her. Her clothes kept changing, but all were very revealing. When she wore a long, loose, pink dress, it billowed without a wind. She couldn't look at them or she'd KNOW that they were peeping and that would break her delusion. So her gaze was fixed straight out the big outdoors-facing windows directly across from her.
I felt Lois's influence when I began assigning motivation and direction that didn't match the character as she defined herself. MY only indication was a sense of tense conflict that eased only when staying true to the character's character. As I refined the story, I realized it was deeper than one chapter would allow. Before I finished what would be chapter one, an external guidance had me outline the story in twelve chapters. During that process, I added to my reservoir of story ideas. Today, 9/11/07, that stands at eighteen written and forty-one outlined and not so patiently waiting for me to get to them.
When I began OoC chapter 2, it began writing itself so quickly I had to hang onto the bullet train or be left behind. It grew too big for a short tale, so I split it in two. Then into six parts. It wasn't done splitting, so I paused and wrote a detailed outline that finally resolved into fifteen chapters. The Pygmalion lead in the former chapter 2, now a separate story called EMMANCIPATION, named herself LOIS. Coincidence? Not likely. Without yet knowing it, I'd met my muse in disguise as my new lead. Names can be hard to choose at times, but hers came with no effort at all. I knew very well the real person Lois represents, so staying true to her character was easy. The story came easily. UNTIL I tried to embellish and push her to do 'unnatural' things or rush her progress. My still unidentified muse was tweaking my internal conflicts. She apparently felt the need to be more obvious.
"You bet I did! You going to tell them about that 'position' remark soon?"
"Yes, your highness. I'm getting to it now. You know, Lois, THIS is the first time we've ever actually had...."
"...dialog, interACTION. We've never directly spoken TO each other before. Intercourse? Where IS your mind?"
"I could tell you, but..."
"Never mind." By chapter three I began to appreciate how much harder it was getting to keep a longer story consistent and not repetitive. My outlined chronology went from a few lines to two full pages of one line entries, thanks to Lois. Scenes, actions and words flowed thru hands and onto the keyboard UNTIL I paused to add spice. I developed a new scene and calculated how to shoehorn it into the story. Suddenly, my fingers refused to type. The words were in my head and I ordered my boycotting fingers to comply. They would not! My arms and hands flexed, normally but my fingers physically stopped an inch above the keyboard and would not even wiggle until I moved them away.
Choices! My left brain charged in to take control, analyze the problem and FIX it. The more it pushed for a fix, the more resistance and tension I felt. Finally, IT even subtly suggested I find some other approach with less resistance. Using some meditation tips, I felt my right brain connect with the energy streaming down my arm. I SAW that energy blocked at the third joint of each finger. When I traced the energy back up my arms I noted that it was weaker in my left arm. It felt stronger as I scanned past my right elbow. Though I expected and imagined it would wrap around my shoulder and show me its path from my brain, it did not. Instead, it continued out of my right shoulder and flared to its source about a foot behind and above that shoulder. Letting my left brain try to identify that source was useless, so I stared at the keyboard and THEN saw something behind me.
I was vaguely aware of a non corporeal presence behind and slightly above my right shoulder. Floating in that source position was the top half of a slim, dark-haired female in a pale pink, diaphanous dress that flowed gently without a breeze. She was looking over my shoulder at the keyboard and screen. Her arms were crossed on her chest and her expression was stern. No words passed her pursed lips, yet I knew what to do. I mentally canceled the scene I'd contrived and stepped back into the previous scene. Once I felt the pulse of the situation, I could again OBSERVE them. What I saw was very different from the scene I invented. My fingers were freed and I wrote what I saw. The apparition smiled thinly and dropped her arms. As her face softened, I recognized Lois. .... LOIS?!
From then on, I worked to keep my defenses down and stay aware of Lois's presence and influence. Shower Towel, [a friendly group grope] and NAKE, Ed's Place, [a splosher's tale] were fully formed stories before finger ever slapped the keyboard. A reader wrote in to suggest it would be an interesting story to watch play out on the Food Channel. Hmmm. 'Rachel's Racy Recipes'? Both were intended to be light and uncomplicated fun. NAKE stole the lead and became my quickest story to become insanely popular.
Milky MILF is a little more complex story, yet it started with a single, simple image and grew under Lois's influence. It too was to be a short, single chapter, simple fun tale. But it also took on a life of its own. It quickly stole the lead from NAKE and became my most popular story. It seems to want to be three chapters and immediately inspired a prequel, RIVER RIDE, which is one of five open stories I expect to finish this year.
My 3-part Nonagenarian story inspiration began with the image of the ancient geezer boarding a train. He caught the scent of sex and saw Sue redressing. That shortly became the opening scene in part two. Lois guided me back an hour into the story and helped me write the care free sex-with-Strangers-on-a-train group frolic that preceeded the geezer's arrival. The group activities became a well-orchestrated ballet that, once again, easily wrote itself. Before finishing part two, the image and events of part three were clear to me. The finale was not originally so hopeful. I struggled with how to introduce the special twist and ALSO make it a hopeFUL story. We should all be THAT lucky!
There was one other significant surprise while writing Emancipation Ch. 10: The Intruder. When I introduced a stranger to the lively group of sisters and mates, I struggled with his name. Nothing fit! So I reviewed hundreds of names on three baby-name web sites. Still, nothing fit. I decided to write around the name by just leaving some '____' until I could find a suitable name. After getting into the story and catching the momentum of the tale, the words flowed.
Without any pauses, I wrote "We were still frozen in place so, during the awkward silence, he introduced himself as Valen." THERE it was. I never saw it coming. The first time I saw THAT name for the story was as my fingers typed it. My hands yanked themselves off the keyboard, my jaw dropped and I shouted at the screen. Where did THAT come from? Once my goose bumps settled, I went back to the web sites and looked for Valen. Left brain said I must have seen it there and didn't notice. It wasn't on any of them.
Valen is one of the most significant characters in Babylon 5, so I went looking for parallels. MY Valen was a minor character. He wasn't a leader, or noble or outstanding. Yet, the name felt like a perfect match for the stranger. I STILL don't know why HE [Lois] chose that name, but I'm OK with it.
Learn from my surprising experience. Listen for, then to, your muse. The most important point I think I have finally learned, and the answer to the title of this story is ... you DON'T manage your muse. You merely surrender to her, umm, ahh, guidance. Yeah, that's it.
"Are you OK with this, Lois? Are there any ideas I left out?"
"Wellllllll, I think they each must find their own muse. We constantly talk to you all, but most don't hear us. As you told them, they should keep an open mind and stay aware of subtle influences. Your examples were sufficient and didn't need much help from me."
"Great. And what is most important, YOU got the last word."
"Yes, I did."
"That's all. We're signing of...."
( ~ ~ )
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[grammar ck 11/18/07]===========