Michaeline: Lots of Ideas and No Plot

Pre-dawn, March 2, 2018. Outside my kitchen window, on the day after the snow. (Photo by E.M. Duskova)

It’s one of those days, when my head is swirling with ideas, but there’s no obvious (or even non-obvious) plot line. So, I’ll just lay them out, one-by-one. Maybe one of them will lead to a plot line for you.

ALMANAC: Terrible snow in northern Japan, Britain and the east coast of the United States. They have been killer storms, in that at least one person has died. The story of one of the deaths in Hokkaido is a peculiar one. An NHK television reporter on his day off was driving in the forest, hunting deer, according to the Mainichi Shimbun. Three roadside assistant workers set off to rescue him after he got caught in the blizzard, but both of their trucks got stuck. They called for a snow plow, but it didn’t arrive, so one of the workers left to the car to check his surroundings, and he got lost in the snow and died. Snow is no joke, folks. If your hero and heroine are stuck in a snowed-in cabin, don’t send them out to look for help unless they’ve got a long rope tied to the front door. And if they are arguing in a car that drives into the ditch? Make sure they clear the exhaust pipe so they don’t get carbon monoxide poisoning. Unless, of course, they want an unhappy ending.

ALMANAC, PART 2: Cheerful news! Today is the Doll Festival of Japan. Families with young girls typically set up a diorama (that can range in size from a small cabinet to a 5-foot high staircase of decoration) depicting an imperial wedding in the Heian era. The full set has all the props – the bride’s sewing kit and rice cooker, all the way up through the Ministers of the Left and Right, the musicians and three hand-maidens, all topped by the bride and groom on the top tier. It’s like Barbie on steroids, with a good dose of historical drama. Traditionally, children could play with the dolls, but these days, the fancy sets are upwards of $1500, and for display only. The dolls must be promptly put away tomorrow, or superstition says the girls in the family will have trouble finding marriage.

RANDOM JAPANESE IMPERIAL TRIVIA: Murasaki Shikibu wrote The Tale of Genji during her time in the Japanese imperial court during the Heian period (she wrote between 1000 and 1012). According to Wikipedia, it is sometimes called the world’s first novel (and then Wikipedia goes into a bunch of qualifiers – world’s first modern novel, the first psychological novel, or the first novel to be considered a classic. Whatevs. Early lady writer, outwriting the dudes.) While it’s got romantic elements, it’s not really a romance in the RWA sense of the word – more like a soap opera. Worth a look if you’ve got a snow day on your hands.

SPRING IS COMING!: Despite all the snow, the days are longer and warmer here in Hokkaido, and a romance writer’s heart turns to fancy. I got a good dose of vitamin D while shoveling snow in the sunshine.

BOOK CLUB: The David Bowie memorial book club has chosen Puckoon by Spike Milligan for its March offering. I haven’t been able to keep up with the book club that started in March – January’s Hawksmoor was very hard to buy, and February was too short and busy for me to read The Fire Next Time. But Puckoon sounds like one of those comedies that are very easy to read, but wallop you with a good dose of reality if you stop to think about it. Kind of like the Black Adder series. Plus, it’s available by ebook, so I might give it a whirl.

I KNOW A MAN, WHO KNOWS A LADY, WHO IS RELATED TO A GAL WHO KNOWS THIS GUY: I’m talking about allusions here. For the past week, clips from Mel Brooks’ very funny yet horrifying movie, The Producers, have been showing up in my feed. The Producers is about two con men who hatch a scheme to make a failing Broadway show that they can embezzle the heck out of, but their plans go awry when the atrocious thing actually turns into a hit show. Then this morning, this five-minute video showed up on my feed, from Jimmy Kimmel. It’s about a couple of con men who hatch a scheme to make a failing presidential campaign that they can embezzle the heck out of . . . . Starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, with an amazing cameo by Chloris Leachman. (Yes, she’s still alive! Yes, so is Mel Brooks! At least at the time of this writing. Hang in there, guys, and keep making good art!)

ALMANAC, PART 3: In like a lion, out like a lamb. Maybe ferocious beginnings can lead to sweet endings. Or is that too boring? Let’s discuss.

And that’s a digest of my undigestible thoughts this Saturday morning. Have a productive weekend, or at least one that nurtures your mind and body.

6 thoughts on “Michaeline: Lots of Ideas and No Plot

  1. Loved the “Springtime for Trump” video!

    I just started work on Book 3 in my trilogy–I wrote the first scene this week. I have characters and a premise, but I’m short on plot points, so I was hoping you’d have something I could steal. Unfortunately, I don’t see anything here that fits into a author-who-sells-her-soul-to-the-devil-to-make the NYT-bestseller list story.

    Last week in your cold start post, you talked about how much you love starting new stories. For me, it’s grueling work. On a personality test they gave employees at one of my workplaces, I came up very low on “strategic thought.” I’m strong tactically, but the blue-sky phase, where you plan out long-term strategies, is really hard for me. Which means my plotting tends to be by trial and error.

    Oh, well, as my mother was wont to say, “It there’s something you have to do, and there’s no way out of it, do it gracefully.”

    Off to do some graceful plotting.

    • I like that! “Graceful plotting”. Order me up some of that, too, please!

      I love the idea of an author selling her soul to make the NYT-bestseller list. As you know, I’ve been obsessed with David Bowie for the past couple of years, and while I’m sure he never met the devil in person (at least not to negotiate with), he was one of those rock stars that fundamentalist religions had quite a few problems with — dabbling with ceremonial magic was just one of many things they felt were dangerous about David Bowie.

      I guess it all depends on what she’s selling her soul to the devil for. If it’s for writing power (so fun; what I imagine cocaine must be like), that’s one thing. A snow-day in a cabin outside of New York (Connecticut?)? If it’s for the power of marketing . . . I see that as more of an office-based activity, But they could retreat to a cabin for strategy, or there could be a car getting stuck, or an accident?

      (-: But of course, if that were the case, one of those things in the list would have popped out and said, “WRITE ME! Write ME!” Good luck in your search! You do very well with interesting ideas, so it’ll come. Have a game night (-:. I mean in real life, and see if that inspires you to anything.

  2. The hunter and his would-be rescuers, and all that snowy white, are making me think of some Arthurian-style legend. I think the hunter saw a huge white stag. Inevitably he followed deep into the forest and shot at it, and equally inevitably that didn’t end well for him or his sidekicks. Not sure what the white stag turned into, but you can bet it wasn’t just venison on the hoof 😉

    I’d have been tempted to try The Tale of Genji except that I just bought a Chinese imperial epic, set around the 1200s. A British publisher recently released a mainstream translation of the first book in Jin Yong’s Legends of the Condor Heroes series. Apparently the series is the best-selling kung fu fantasy epic of all time, and the biggest Chinese publishing hit of the last century. The reviews are citing Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. I’m super-curious and I really hope I can get to grips with it.

    • OMG, a friend of mine has just been talking to me about Norden mythology, and apparently there are all sorts of spirits in the forest who protect the forest, and you don’t mess with them. And, the spirits have been around long enough that they can curse/bless GUNS, which seems quite modern. This is a great idea! We should both run with it, and see what we come up with (-:. I bet we take that idea in completely different directions!

      I remember The Tale of Genji being worth the slog, but it was a slog indeed. I can’t remember whose translation it was; I want to say Seidensticker. Let us know how the Legends of the Condor Heroes come out. It sounds like a lot of fun and very adventure-y!

  3. Michaeline, thank you for the “Springtime for Trump” video! I loved that. When I saw the film with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe. SO over the top. SO delightful.

    Plot points—yeah, my downfall. I love the idea of the doll festival, though. It seems like there’s a story in there, with a girl who doesn’t put her favorite doll away on time, or doesn’t put the diorama away on time, and then [does have, doesn’t have] trouble finding the right mate, just as the myth suggests. I’d have to work on that a while, but I like it. Enjoy your Doll Festival!

    Snow, argh. All those snow scenarios are real and sad, and if I were wanting to write a snow saga, which I don’t, it would probably have Alfred Hitchcock overtones..

    • And then the prince doll comes to life and turns out to be The One! (Or even better, turns out to be the gay guy pal who helps her find The One . . . omg!)

      There are so many dolls in the full set. I think you have three manservants, two ministers, five male musicians, three handmaidens, and then the prince and princess at the top (or the imperial couple). There’s a cute “toys come to life in the back room while everyone’s asleep” story there — but in Japanese tradition, dolls are more likely to be very scary. Creeping around and killing people who are out of bed at night. I don’t really do horror unless it sneaks up on me and grabs me from behind.

      (-: I should really aim to get some writing done this week. It’s so nice to brainstorm with you Ladies!

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