Less Inspiration, More Interruption

Steven King described the act of writing as more like archeology than imagination (rough draft, anyway). He says that stories are found things dug carefully and skillfully from the earth. The author slowly and methodically exposes a bit more and bit more of whatever it is that’s been discovered. Oftentimes you don’t know what you’ve found until it’s been completely unearthed, and I really understand this description. Except for me it’s more like an interview I conduct with someone, but at first I have no idea why I’m even talking to this person.

Let’s play.

I’ll take us back to a May morning in 2007, a morning just like this one. It’s seven-ten in the am. I’m outside at my local coffee shop sipping from a steaming cup of green tea. I have a foot up on a chair and I’m gazing over at my low-rider (motorcycle) and chastising myself for being too lazy to have taken my bicycle. My eyes flash to the blank screen of my laptop. If I had a hammer handy I’d be slamming it into the back of my head in hopes of coaxing my brain into some form of thought generation. But alas, I’m without such a tool. I draw my daily, ‘To Do’ list from my shirt pocket and write, Add Hammer to Laptop Case.

A finger taps me hard on the shoulder. I stifle a cry of pain and turn. This big guy’s standing behind me, I mean really big, over seven and a half feet for sure not counting his antennae. He’s got four thick arms though the sleeves of a long trench coat and said antennae through two holes in his fedora. One of his three pincher claws grip a scolding hot coffee, some of which dribbles from the cup.

“You’re in my seat, human,” he says in a raspy voice that is somehow both deep and squeaky and would best be compared to Bon Scott, the singer from the rock group, AC/DC.

I look around; I’m the only dope in the outside café at this time of morning. I clear my throat; this guy can take another seat and stop bothering me while I’m working. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I say and start to gather up all my junk: laptop, laptop case, Blackberry, headphones, a pen, a pencil, my jumble words note card, my backup list, and my quickly cooling cup of tea. With my arms overburdened I clumsily scramble out of the seat (hey, this guys more than just big, he’s heavily armed). “There you go; all yours. I apologize for holding you up.”

“Whatever,” he grumbles and drops down into my seat. He appears to be staring at my motorcycle and he looks hungry.

What I really want is to find a quiet seat, set back up, and find the willpower to get something, anything, on the page. But I keep staring at this guy. I want to ignore him, I need to get ten pages of my novel done and I haven’t written a word. I look away, I look back, I look away and I groan. I’m not going to be able to leave it alone.


“Hey mister, do you mind if I ask you a question?” I hope he says yes.

“Yeah,” he snaps, “I mind.” He doesn’t turn his head but I bet his huge, complex eyes can see me anyway.

Double frass. I still can’t walk away.

I drop all my crap on the table and sit across from him. “Look, I don’t want to bother you—”

Faster than I can see, one of his lower claws springs up from under the table and points this really weird gun at my forehead. It looks like about a mile of shiny brass tubing all looped and twisted around and ends with a horn about the size of a trombone’s. It has a trigger that fits his thick claw. “Beat feet soft on the outside.”

I’m fixated on the weapon. I’ve never seen anything like it. “Wow, now that’s cool, what is it?”

He tips the brim of his hat away from his complex eyes and turns the gun sideways so I can get a better look. “It’s a tuba-blaster,” he grumbles like this is something I should have known.

“How’s it work?” I ask, curiosity replacing my apprehension.

He sets the horn against my head. “I pull the trigger and a low-E sonic wave tears your frassing head off.”

“Hey,” I shout. I can feel my face opening with realization. “You say frass, just like me.”

“Idiot,” he grumbles and sets the weapon on the table, then takes a sip from his cup. “You say frass just like me.

Humn, he’s right. I’d never said frass before that morning. I hit the application on my phone. Frass: insect excrement. “Oh,” I exclaim louder than I intended to and point a finger. “You’re a bug.”

A couple hundred of his retinas were focused on my finger. “No kidd’n, but we prefer to be called Kacekans. Are you using that finger? It looks delicious.”

“What?” I ask, still processing, then curl my finger and tuck my hands under the table. “Yes.” Then, taking the weathered, wrinkled, and ruined notebook from the cargo pocket of my pants (I never leave home without it, just in case of such a meeting) and click my pen open. “So who are you?”

One of his upper claws whips out, grabs me by the collar and yanks me out of my seat as he stands. My feet dangle off the floor. “I’m PeeDee3, Intergalactic, Insectiod Assassin, I’m the most wanted, least liked, and most ridiculed hit-bug this side of the galactic cesspool.” As if I was but a paper doll in his claw, he yanks my face close to his and clicks his sharp mandibles together in a menacing way. “And I’m about to become you’re worse nightmare, Mr. Writer, sir.”

He drops me back into my chair, sits, crosses his exoskeletonized legs, and glares at me. “Now, what do you want to know?”

Oh crap…I mean frass; just what I didn’t need, more work.

See, for me, the germination of ideas usually comes from my characters. It’s a process of getting to know them, how they think, what motivates them, what makes them really uncomfortable, and what flips their switch. For me the heart of the story is always about the character. What does she what? How will she get there? What’s stopping her from getting there? What will she do to overcome? Or, more importantly, how much is she willing to change in order to overcome?

Weird for a guy who writes a series about an alien insectiod who’s incapable of character growth…or is he? I guess we’ll see, I’m still interviewing the bug, still getting to know it.

More often than not, the stories come from me wanting to know my characters better. I like to drop them into situations that will push them beyond whatever limits they may have. Sometimes though a story idea comes to me that has noting to do with character, but I think sounds cool. Then I think, who can I drop into this situation? J Parker, PeeDee3, Jazz, Eve Hallows, Rescueboy? Once I’ve set a character into said terrible situation, it’s just a matter of waiting to see how my hero/heroine/insectiod responds. Then I report what transpired to you.

Ut, oh, this guy in an Edwardian coat and vest and a pair of spats is asking if he can join me at my table. I should say no, I really need to finish this blogpost, but he is wearing at hat that appears to be living octopus. I better get this.


One Response to “Less Inspiration, More Interruption”

  1. Margarette Montpas May 30, 2011 at 1:40 am #

    Sure do miss Bon, but at least we have the film and videos