Easing Out of March While Playing God’s Pinball Machine

Put a little ZIP in your day


John Clark emptying out the post-winter drippings in the brain pan, something I encourage others to consider. After a winter spent primarily reading (and reviewing) voraciously, I’ve started writing what may be a novella, or might stretch into another book. It’s called Thor’s Wingman and I’ll share more down the road. It’s a young adult urban fantasy which is what I seem to favor these days. For those unfamiliar with the genre, it’s fiction grounded in the contemporary world with supernatural elements blended in. Charles De Lint is often acknowledged as the godfather of the genre and has written some dandies.

Anyhow, in the course of ramping up to starting, I wrote a few short stories and spent time in my head, looking at the think factory to see what was kicking about up there. I’ve always been fascinated with lightning, particularly the chain or cloud-to-cloud kind. It started when I was a kid and storms would slide over Appleton Ridge and follow the Georges River to the ocean. Heat lightning was particularly fascinating because it stayed high, had little thunder and bounced about, sometimes for several minutes at a time.

I started calling this God’s Pinball Machine sometime during high school. Later on, I realized that the name could apply equally to another of my fascinations-thinking. I just finished reading a fascinating article in the latest issue of Rolling Stone about the legal and underground research and use of psychedelics to treat mental illness, particularly PTSD. (http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/how-doctors-treat-mental-illness-with-psychedelic-drugs-w470673) (One drug, ibogaine, shows promise as an effective treatment for opioid addiction.) The article reminded me of what intrigued me most about the thought process (and is often mimicked in casual conversation), how we get from thought A to thought X and what ideas/images/thoughts were in between. It’s not always easy to backtrack, but I’ve found that doing so often amazes me. Stuff that at first seems totally unconnected, starts to make sense as I backtrack.

What does this have to do with writing? For me a lot, it seems. Several of my recent short stories started as a fragment as I was falling asleep, but as the process continued, I neither fell asleep not forgot the idea trail. Backing that train up helped solidify the ideas. The process of backtracking can sometimes be as intriguing as the writing process. Here’s something to try if you like. Think of someone you knew in high school or college and let your mind wander. Give yourself five minutes. I find washing dishes or weeding are really good activities for something like this. Jot down where you stopped-who/what/where, etc. See if you can follow the trail back to the original thought and see just how far from point A you went in the process. It might bore the heck out of you, but I’m really fascinated and I use some of the process to expand my plots as well as let my characters grow.

Take Jared Hills, the main character in Thor’s Wingman. He started out as a bored teen who spent his summer in a boat, fishing on the big lake not far from where he lived. I let him start thinking and when he got back to me, the amount he’d expanded as a person and what happened as he was growing up, was scary.

Here’s one more thing I’m draining from the brain pan-cast off characters. We’ve all read series with characters we related to. At some point the series ends, but what happens to characters after their creator has abandoned them? I sometimes imagine a world peopled with them. How do they feel, how do they pass the time, who connects with whom, what kind of world do they inhabit now that they’re no longer necessary?

Who would you want to hang with if you could enter such a world? What would it look like and how might you interact with them. I think it would be a total hoot to spend a weekend with Travis McGee, Katniss Everdeen and Druss The Legend. Imagine climbing into Travis’ beloved Miss Agnes and going clubbing together. That would be quite the experience.

Well good readers, who would you choose to hang with if you had a similar world peopled with lost characters? Let me know

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4 Responses to Easing Out of March While Playing God’s Pinball Machine

  1. Gram says:

    Happy to see that someone still remembers Travis McGee. I always like Meyer best.

  2. Sennebec says:

    I loved the entire series and also remember Ross MacDonald’s books fondly. These authors were among a small number of go-to writers when I was in my late twenties and early thirties.

  3. bethc2015 says:

    It must be my distress with the current political situation, but I keep thinking of characters living in times when life was or appeared to be simpler, like Little Women or Anne of Green Gables. Sometimes we just need to take a break with a “feel good” book.

  4. Julianne Spreng says:

    I still have and occasionally reread the Travis McGee books. I agree with Gram that Meyer was someone I could hang with. I still have uncomfortable thoughts about the victims buried in the sand with a basket over their heads slowly drowning in the tide.

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