Twice a month I have dinner (well, usually breakfast, since we meet at Perkins) with a friend of mine, also a writer. Barb is one of the most prolific writers I know. She’s got a 7 book series going, plus three or four stand alone titles, and she never ever seems to run out of ideas. Her plots are also some of the most complex – but honest and well-written – I’ve ever come across. I don’t know how she comes up with these mental mazes; they floor me every time she shares one. But as she explains it, she has an idea, it’s buried in a nasty mess of yarn, and like a cat, her mind plays with it and plays with it until it’s all unwoven and she can see the warm fuzzy sweater hidden inside.
Lucky me, I’ve now been invited to be catlike and play in the yarn, too. She’ll throw out a “this is what (she/he/character) told me. I love it but don’t get it. Help me figure out what he/she means!” and then we sit and ponder possible meanings to a scene that came fully formed to her. These scenes are amazing little nuggets of writer gold, and all! she has to do is figure out what comes before, what comes after, and who the heck the characters who have thrust themselves into the open are. Nothing major.
So, every other Monday night we sit together over pancakes and pie and ‘what if’ and ‘could this be it?’ and ‘that won’t work because’ for three or more hours. [Our server has become so familiar with us he knows to come for our orders with a pot of coffee, disappear til food is ready, take our plates once they’re empty, and return an hour later to see if we’re ready for pie. He’s well-trained.]
While I might be considered a second brain in that I contribute plot points and tidbits to Barb’s stories, Barb is very tangibly ‘co-writing’ Gemma with me. She’s agreed to take on the role of ‘Gram’ and in that character’s voice is surprising and delighting me with diary entries that I then get to write against. It’s a blast, and it’s inspiring and it’s intriguing because she comes up with things I would never come up with, but that are awesome for the story. And she’s got the voice DOWN. This woman is exactly what she is supposed to be: a feisty, independent, charming woman who has lived her life her own way and isn’t settling for anything less than what she wants and deserves.
The cool thing about this whole sharing process is that we both get to see something from another perspective, something we would not see otherwise. I don’t write drama and Barb doesn’t write humor, so we’re both out of our natural comfort zones, and that’s quite possibly why it works. We are seeing things with clear, open eyes, untainted by presumptions or what we already known in our own heads or books we’ve read in our own genres. This is a huge benefit, to both of us, I believe. It’s literally like having a second brain without the expensive upkeep and maintenance.
Someday I may ask my second brain to do a guest blog post and share how she comes up with her crazy, twisted, awesome plots. Or how she manages to juggle a full-time pressure-filled office job and still produce the pages she does. She’s got lots to share.
But not yet… for now, I want more Gram stories!