My Blog

Finding stories and characters in unlikely places…

A fellow author asked me yesterday, “Murph, where in the world do you come up with all these bizarro stories and characters?” The answer I gave him was…”Sometimes I know and sometimes I don’t know.” At this point you’re probably thinking “What kinda bullshit answer is that?” You indulge, I’ll explain.

At times a story comes out of my withered subconscious fully formed and ready to read. More often than not, it has to be dragged kicking and screaming from some lower quadrant of my memory in jagged bloody pieces. I can’t say I carry a journal consistently, but I do scribble constantly on bits and pieces of paper I keep stashed in my pocket, car, desk, etc. Bad habit, I know, but I’m a writer. We’re suppose to be messy, right? So where do I do all this free writing? Practically everywhere. Ever get stuck at a car repair shop next to a guy who insists on telling you about everything from his last hernia operation to which bran cereal gives him the best bang for his buck? Me too. Meanwhile, you watch a team of mechanics tear some greasy hunk of hardware off your engine and cut cards to see who gets to go tell ‘the poor bastard in the customer waiting area’ it’s gonna cost him eight bills to get a new one tucked up under the hood and stop the bleeding?  So while old Mr. Regular is yammering on about his ingrowns, I’m jotting down pieces of dialogue, bits of character attributes, goofy facial tics, ugly scars, moles, tattoos, the works. I may not have the slightest idea at the time where these tidbits will wind up, but I jot’em all down. Later, when I’m back at Dark and Deadly Central, I fire up my computer, or a pen, and start adding details. Marcus Sakey calls this ‘adding pretty flesh to your skeleton.’ Just keep in mind, pretty flesh may be festered over with warts and knife wounds oozing with infection if your story so requires. That same flesh may be an innocent toddler or a vixen with a loaded .45 and a deep yearning to unload it. Will she? As writers we get to decide.

This scenario works equally well when: 1)You’re still sitting in the Doctor’s waiting room at 2:00 p.m. waiting for the doctor to show up for your 12:30 appointment. Don’t get me started! 2) You find yourself stuck at Greater Cincinnati Airport on layover because some chucklehead over-booked the flight and you got bounced. Just pray to God they didn’t confiscate your pen and laptop at security (aka Checkpoint Charlie).  3) A traffic accident caused all four lanes to come to a screeching halt till AirFlight lands to pick up the injured. 4) Your meeting was suppose to last an hour, but now management has decided everyone needs to look at the latest sales campaign statistics, not just the guys in sales and marketing. Lousy day job!!  5) Any other time-consuming, lifesucking, unproductive event you find yourself stranded in.

Use these situations as opportunities. People watch, eavesdrop, spy on the unsuspecting. People say and do the funniest damned things, and I’m no exceptions. I firmly believe our jobs as writers is to exploit the living hell out of them. Steal their dialogue, their intimate conversations, their slang, their accents, their quirky twitches and annoying body movements. Jot down every nose-picking, butt-scratching, cigar-smoking, brain-dead scrap of it. Then, when the doctor finally shows up and you’ve resisted the urge to pinch his neck shut for having you sit in an examination room on a cold, hard chair for three hours, you can slip back home and start adding ‘pretty flesh’ to all those rattling bones. Sound off about what works for you…..    Murph

© Murphy Edwards 2011-2013

One Response to “My Blog”

  1. Addie Rose Says:

    ur a big creep and u know it and i hope someone publishes ur new story “The Devils Garden”

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