Friday, January 22, 2010

How Things Come Together

I was talking to my chiropractor (of all people) about what it's like inside a writer's mind, and how, sometimes, things just creep into your subconscious where they hang around bugging you until you can sort them out.

Here's an example:

I had written a fragment of a scene where Ivy is mad at John because of a misunderstanding. In my head, she is perfectly justified in her outrage because she knows something that John does not, but I didn't know what that might be. I also knew that Ivy was going to be practicing some kind of mountain medicine that John couldn't appreciate, but hadn't the first clue what the treatment would be because I hadn't decided on the ailment she was treating yet.

This is a typical conundrum for a writer. I'll back myself into a corner and until I figure out the whys and wherefores, I'm stuck. I can't write a blessed thing.

But things have a way of working themselves out.

Yesterday, I was googling common Southern Appalachian expressions and came across a reference to people saying someone was "bad to drink". I went on my merry way, and kept writing down other phrases, when all of a sudden in the back of my head, the wheels started turning.

I've been reading trudging through Thomas Wolfe's O Lost! this week, and in the book, the father character is a raging alcoholic who becomes verbally abusive and violent towards his family. And as I'm thinking about this character, who is indeed "bad to drink" I picture Ivy shaking her head, hands on her hips saying (to me, presumably) "I'd take care of him. Give him some kind of tonic that would make him sick as a dog whenever he touched alcohol. Go figure out what I'd give him..."

So I start researching home remedies for alcoholism... And lo and behold, what is one of the most common remedies to treat alcoholism? Kudzu Root! And what grows plentifully in the south? KUDZU! So then I research a little more, and what side effect might one experience after imbibing too much Kudzu Root? Chronic constipation!

Wheels start turning faster... So if there's a character who beats his wife and children when he drinks, Ivy might surreptitiously be making him a tonic for his stomach troubles (he's sure to have them if he's a heavy drinker), that keeps him off the bottle, and makes him constipated. Ivy has a good excuse to try giving him more and more "tonic", but then the new doctor comes to town, has no idea about this man's past history with the bottle, and tells this man that Ivy's tonic is useless, pours it out, and gives him something more effective for his stomach, and suddenly all the pieces of my plot come together. :-)

I can't tell you how exilerating it feels when this happens. This is why I write.

2 comments:

  1. oh it's great when a plan comes together!

    ReplyDelete

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