We asked this year’s faculty to respond to a question related to this year’s theme of disTRACTION. Today, Suzy Chamandy tells us about a time she turned a moment of distraction to her advantage.
If you’re really inhabiting your characters, if you know them and are really tuned in to them, moment to moment, you’ll know what they want and need to say to each other. The dialog will come to you – right? Easier said than done, I think. Much. Sure, there are times when the dialog does come easily – and what fun that is! – but then there are those times the dialog moves like wading through mud. What the characters are saying to each other is just too obvious, or there’s no tension underneath the words, or there just isn’t enough of the character in the lines of dialog. Sometimes, although not always, this happens because I’ve gotten distracted. It’s like my mind has wandered and I’ve lost the thread of the conversation.
So, what to do with that … that distraction? Sometimes going with – trusting – the very next thing that comes to mind can help, regardless of how “good” you think it is at first. That’s some advice from the poet Richard Hugo. Just write what comes into your mind next and work with it, see if you can use it, see if it takes you somewhere. Because, after all, it’s what your imagination came up with. The same imagination that conceived the idea for your story, the same imagination that created your characters. But what if absolutely nothing comes to mind, nothing story-related, anyway? What if you are that distracted? Try this. Go to a favorite writer and borrow an admirable line, or maybe a line that intrigues you. Okay, it’s not your own, but go ahead, put it down. Let it be the bridge back to your work on your own story. Tweak that borrowed line, tailor it to your characters and your specific dramatic moment and OWN it. You may end up eliminating the borrowed line later on, but it may very well be the way back into your story, or poem, or song, etc., etc. Have fun!