How Do You Deal With An Uncooperative Muse?

Muse

I mentioned last week my writing muse has abandoned me. It’s probably to make me wonder if I’ll ever finish the last half of my REICHOLD STREET sequel so the book will actually see the light of day this year, as I more or less promised.

Or maybe it’s just to make me sweat.

I’m not sure. Those nine Greek muses were notoriously unpredictable. Not to mention there was no muse specifically for fiction.

Don’t believe me? Check the list:

    Calliope was the muse of epic poetry
    Clio was the muse of history
    Erato was the muse of love poetry
    Euterpe was the muse of music
    Melpomene was the muse of tragedy
    Polyhymnia was the muse of sacred poetry
    Terpsichore was the muse of dance
    Thalia was the muse of comedy
    Urania was the muse of astronomy

See? No muse at all for historical fiction, mystery, westerns, sci-fi, fantasy, spy thrillers, horror, young adult or zombie romance.

The tragedy and comedy muses might work, if you’re considering a reprise of Shakespeare’s Romeo and that Capulet girl … or think you have a shot rewriting Joseph Heller’s fabulous “Catch-22” into the latest zombie apocalypse fable, featuring a worried Yossarian and the dispassionate Colonel Cathcart as dancing corpses.

So, since the literary muse I don’t even have has abandoned me for the moment, I’ve been spending time foraging around the Internet … mostly because (1) I don’t have the inclination to visit the library, and (2) the web of nets is faster.

Anyway, I was surfing again on the web of nets and came across another remarkable comment by reformed journalist Guy Bergstrom, this time from a post on his blog back on October 11, 2011. I have to mention it, because this particular entry almost had me sitting down to write my stalled novel again.

He said it doesn’t matter what you’re writing: “spy thrillers, speeches, newspaper stories or romances about men in kilts” … the only thing readers truly care about is the journey you take them on.

Here I’ve been struggling to paint with words, and he says the roller coaster ride you take a reader on is more important than how pretty you’ve painted things.

In other words, story structure beats pretty words.

Wow … what a concept! All you other indie writers out there, are you listening? Readers want a thrilling ride.

The Thing To Remember
The thing to remember about roller coasters and thrilling rides is they all have ups and downs. It’s why tragedies work. They’re inherently a fast and exciting ride. Your characters start at the very top. Then, because the protagonist can’t resist temptation or stupidity, they plummet to the bottom.

They may pull out of the slide a few times on the way down, until whatever sent them plummeting in the first place gets the best of them.

That’s exciting (bless you, Melpomene).

It works just as well in reverse … and it’s usually called comedy (bless you, too, Thalia). The no-nothing loser rises to the occasion, defeats the bad guy and (saves the world, gets the girl, the job, the promotion, or the prize … you get the picture).

While I was reading Guy’s blog it reminded me of the real lesson for any writer, no matter what you write: either figure out the ending, because that should determine the beginning; or look at your beginning, because that should influence your ending.

This doesn’t mean you have to outline and fill in the blanks (something I’ve already said I won’t do). But you do need to realize if you have a down ending, you need an up beginning. If you have an up ending, for the ride to be a thrill, you’d better have a down beginning.

Otherwise, you’re not taking the reader on any kind of ride.

Thanks, Guy. I’ve been so focused on the word-painting, I’d almost forgotten that.

I think I’m ready to start writing again.

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P.S. In case you want to read more of Guy’s take on the craft of writing, check him out at The Red Pen of Doom. Browse a while. Tell him I sent you … and don’t forget to come back.

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Last Saturday, October 5, 2013, I attended the sixth annual Rochester Writers’ Conference at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. I always look forward to it and Michael Dwyer, the local writer who puts it all together, didn’t disappoint me. That’s going to help make the muse cooperate, too. Thanks, Michael.

Creating Believable Characters
Don’t forget to click on the link in the right-hand column to get your copy of “Creating Believable Characters.” It was written specifically to aid writers with their character development and the price shouldn’t be a deterrent … it’s FREE.

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