Well, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write “the Great American Novel.” There are so many already, and I think I’ve read most of them. There’s my problem: I love to read. What with life and everything that goes with it, the saying “so many books, so little time” certainly applies to me. My husband’s always commenting: “never mind reading, write one!” Yeah, sure!
I must admit that on certain sleepless nights I have thought about writing something longer than one of these essays, but by the time I really got into the story I was asleep, and by the time I woke up the whole thing was forgotten. Now I keep a pad and lighted pen (a great invention!) right by the bed. Unfortunately for the world, it’s too late to retrieve my magnum opus from the depths of dreamland. A few words jotted down fairly legibly are enough to fuel an essay, but would never be enough to start a fire under a novel. However, the other night I had an idea: a generic starter for several novels: “Grandma grounded you, did she?”
Or was it Grandpa, or Dad who did? Who is speaking? Mom, a brother, Auntie Em? Who is being spoken to? An eighteen-year-old, an eight-year-old? Where are they? What time of day? What season? Above all, what was done wrong? What are the consequences? The permutations of the situation are endless.
I’m guessing that that is how many of these modern churners-out-of-novels do it: they use a formula. Never mind the old “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl” shtick. Too easy. They must be using something like my basic generic starter, playing around with the characters and circumstances, and they’re getting rich doing it. Egad! There must be starters for everything from modern romances to horror tales to spy novels.
C.S. Forester wrote:"A man who writes for a living does not have to go anywhere in particular, and he could rarely afford to if he wanted.” Years ago the lesson was “write what you know.” I think I could have happily learned to write what I knew while traveling the world. If I’d wanted to send the characters to Hong Kong or Stockholm, I’d just have had to check it out first. Couldn’t have the characters wandering down streets that aren’t there or eating in restaurants that don’t exist, could I? All that lovely travel would all be in the name of research, and today it would be tax deductible. Just think of the sight-seeing tours, the dining out, the shopping. Oh, the possibilities!
I’ve gleaned a few essays from my travels, but not the great novel. Frankly, I wasn’t even thinking about a novel when I was traveling. I realize I’ve always been destined to be a reader. What would authors do without folks like me?
P.S. Feel free to use my generic starter.
One never knows what you might write!