I thought I had a great idea last night, in the middle of the night, while I was sleeping. I tend to narrate in my dreams, and in this dream I was not only narrating the dream but deciding that this was a kind of narrating that I could carry over into the waking life, and that it would work quite well. The idea was to write just the beginning, the middle, and the end of a story. With huge gaps in between. So it would be like the first five minutes of a movie, then a five minute scene an hour into it, and then a bit of the ending as well. I might have had this idea because of a movie I watched last night before bed, a pretty terrible American remake of a pretty good Argentine move (The Secret in their Eyes). There were only a handful of good scenes, so why not just write those, and the hell with the rest of it?
So tonight I sat down and thought I’d give it a whirl. Nope. Nothing came of it. Some ideas are just bad ideas.
Here are some other bad ideas: a story is like a roommate. You want a roommate, and at first you think, ok, this could work out, but pretty soon that roommate starts to drive you crazy. They are always in your home! They have their own agenda. They want what they want, not what you want. Pretty soon you’d give anything to get rid of that roommate. So you hurry up and finish the story. At least I do. Usually two or three weeks is all I can take. It’s also why my story’s endings tend to suck, because I just cannot wait to be done with them. Get them out of the house. Throw them onto the internet so they can’t complain. What do you want? I gave you to the world! Frickin’ lousy roommate, get out of my head.
I could do all those “fragments from books that don’t exist” because they were more like one-night stands. I was only allowed to spend up to an hour on each one, including both the cover art and the writing. But even that became tiresome after 99 of them. I couldn’t even do one more to make it an even hundred. That was six months of doing, at a clip of three or four a week. Enough was enough.
But now I’m looking for another set of improvisational/performance-type fiction. Short and sweet little beasts that won’t hang around and pester me with their arcs and clingy need for development and resolution. I don’t want characters inhabiting my home. I want them to merely visit for a brief spell, and then go away.
Maybe I’ll chop up the dream idea, and instead of writing a beginning AND a middle AND an ending, I could just pick whichever one I felt like doing, and do that.
One of my favorite books is “If On A Winter’s Night a Traveler”, in which Italo Calvino writes the first chapter of ten different books, all in a row. It’s quite a feat.
Stanislaw Lem’s “A Perfect Vacuum” is a collection of reviews of books that don’t exist. Loved that one too.
And then there is ‘The Museum of the Novel of Eterna’, by Macedonio Fernandez, which begins with dozens of hilarious prefaces. My own book ‘Macedonia’ was a tribute to that.
A lot of people hate meta. A lot of people are also Republicans. You can’t worry about things like “a lot of people”.
I still want roommates, but very very temporary ones. So I’ll come up with something. Even if I have to stick it out for two or three weeks. It’s usually worth it.