Michaeline: Just How Many Girls are in That Basement?

243px-Cantoria_Della_Robbia_OPA_Florence_8Damon Knight, who wrote Creating Short Fiction, talked about collaborating with “Fred”. Stephen King talks about “the boys in the basement” in On Writing, and Jennifer Crusie talks about “the girls in the basement.” All are different ways of referring to the subconscious part of the mind that comes up with the story part of the book.

“The Girls in the Basement: don’t get in their way.” is one of Jenny’s favorite themes. But sometimes . . . the Girls don’t seem to know what they are doing, either. They can fight with each other. Or after you’ve slaved away over a good day’s worth of words, one of them suddenly pops up and says, “Oh! Got a better idea!”

I’ve got Girls all over the place – basement, attic and third floor mezzanine. I mentioned one last week who is an efficiency freak, and complains when some other Girl says, “Rewrite!” And I’ve got a few Girls who are really susceptible to outside influence. They are people-pleasers, so when I get criticism, they come up with ideas that seem like genius for half an hour, and then nobody in my head knows how to turn the “genius” into a book. Things like: “Got it! My sexy romantic hero is really Ernest Borgnine, and runs around chewing a cigar, and being thwarted by his minions.” That idea sounded brilliant for two hours, and then I remembered that I was writing a romance.

No wonder it takes a year or more to write a book. Sorting out all that noise can be a problem.

That said, the Girls, even the contrary Girls, always bring something to the mix. Often that “better idea” really is a better idea. The crazy ideas have some sort of truth in the center (ie: my hero is going to be thwarted by his own side as well as the other side). It’s important to listen to the Girls.

Who are some of the Girls (or Boys) hanging around in your head? (Just to kick the list off, I’ve got an adorable Girl who loves footnotes. She hasn’t been let out since I was in high school, but she enjoys reading Terry Pratchett. I ought to let her out to play more – a Library Geek is always a good writing ally, even if she gets edited out in the end.)

9 thoughts on “Michaeline: Just How Many Girls are in That Basement?

  1. A while ago I jokingly referred to mine as “bats in the belfry” – I didn’t hear from them for weeks. Fortunately, they’ve started drifting back and lobbing random ideas up now and again. I think one of them is an efficiency expert – when I edit scenes she figures out where to reuse the leftover bits and pieces somewhere else. Not sure about the rest of them; just happy when they send up an idea I can use.

  2. I think mine stayed in London…or actually, Monument Valley, UT (and that trip was over Labor Day). However, they seem to be coming back, so maybe their passports finally came through?

    I have one girl for rewrites, another for crazy, plot-wrecking ideas, and one who, I swear, does her best thinking in the shower. Unfortunately, she’s also got the worst memory, so by the time I’m where I can write something down, she’s up and gone.

    Must get a mini-whiteboard for the bathroom.

    • Justine, do you have access to “Field Notes” ™? It is waterproof paper that people who work out in wet conditions use. You can write on it with pencil or other waterproof media. I’ve been meaning to hang one of their notebooks in the shower for just that purpose.

      Also, Monument Valley? I went there on my wanderung a few years ago that led me to Houston. I loved MV! I took some of my best pictures there! Did you love it?

      • Hi Skye, thanks for the info about Field Notes. I’ll have to check that out. Anything to help capture an idea before it flows down the drain!

        Yes, loved MV. I took some fabulous pictures there, too, although that’s not difficult, given the scenery. I’ve lived in AZ for four years and that was my first time there. What took me so long? Oh yeah, little kids!

    • Some girls just don’t seem to want to travel. I’ve heard several writers complain about not being able to write when they are on the move. I’ve read a story, though, where the writer would ride on a bus, sit and think, then spend the next four days in a hotel room pounding out a first draft. Mine don’t seem to mind short trips, but I’m really too busy on the long trips to pay attention to the Girls.

  3. Mine do’t like going to school, but I figure once I stop trying to corral them with all the cool new stuff I’m learning, they’ll move back into the third floor apartment.

  4. Mine come out to play when I’m asleep. Usually they send a representative to do a hand-over report early in the morning. Then I wake up properly and they’re done for the day.

  5. I have a whole host: male, female, young, old. They sprawl all over the place. Because I spent many years not listening to them, they haven’t been very useful for a while, but I’m slowly making friends with them again, because they used to tell me the most wonderful stories!

    • (-: I think that’s really important. The girls seem to sulk when nobody (ie: the Main Person in Charge) pays them any attention. During Nano, I used to get the most amazing dreams. Nothing really about the book, but the Girls (and Boys and whoever else were in there) had lots to say during that time. I think there must be some sort of chemical trigger when a person writes . . . .

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