A Bit of Serendipity

When I begin a new piece, I often start with "words go here". Just to keep pace. Somehow, that tiny little phrase can prove far less daunting than a stark, blank page.

Character voice can be one of the most elusive, as well as the most motivating forces known to the art of writing -- and it is an art; its volatility, inspiration -- as well as the ability to plummet an author into the depths of despair -- is legendary. And infamous.

I didn't intend to find Alice, rather we had always been fickle playmates throughout my childhood. I was even accused of channeling her curiosity and Victorian air more than once. Even still, on a cold wintry morning at the university cafeteria, I didn't find Alice. She found me.

"I can't... think." Patrick, brilliant, albeit frustrated, mind teeming with science-fiction and other lore, mused, stabbing whatever was seemingly palatable that day upon his plate.

I could relate. Idly toying with a small bunch of undercooked vegetables on my own, I finally set down the fork, throwing in the towel. He had recently seen a terrible failure with his more recent submission of a novel concept to a fiction class we were both taking. And it wasn't a truly just failure either. "The fact that he told you to drop the entire story is ridiculous. It has incredible potential, it just needs... structure."

He sighed, eyes boring into the surface of the table. His entire life longed for structure, nevermind his writing. It was reckless, full of vitality and spirit. But it was less a candle flame than a raging, out of control fire. And he could never seem to find a means into which to contain it.

I was of course seeing my own dry spell that January, although the month had never truly been a renewal for me. What the year saw as a fresh start, I rarely saw as any sort of a profitable new beginning. It seemed my Muse came to visit later spring -- and Patrick's was often absent with a bit of a cheating heart.

"So, what else is new?"

Finally. Something about... something -- anything other than... nothing.

"Oh... had a crazy dream. Like always. Except it got me wondering. About things. Lots of things."

"Like?"

"I'm not sure yet." That was a lie. I just hadn't structured what I wanted to say yet, and for fear of it sounding stupid and ill-thought out, I wasn't about to. I, on the other hand, am obsessive about structure. In my writing. My life is another story as well. And then it formulated. "I've been thinking about... serial killer obsessions. Like... what he might have been obsessed with." He, as in a hypothetical based upon a potential. Allow me to explain: he was legitimate, real, living, and authentic -- but the fact of an obsession -- that was just always a speculation. Killers, especially of a multiple homicide nature, often had obsessions that drove them to their compulsions thereby creating what modern psychological profiling calls signatures. I didn't think he was very different, but it had been years. I'd never really know for sure.

"Hmm." This was all he really needed to get the hamster-wheel in his head turning. And quickly. "Like what? Like a children's story?"

"Exactly. Like... well, something fictitious and a bit out-there, but not to the point of absurdity. Like 'Alice' or something."

He was liking this. So much so, that he dove back into the questionable matter being served as a 'contintental breakfast' -- i.e. no chilled fruit, no waffles, no eggs or bacon -- often some other sort of concoction left over to punish those students who either didn't wake at the crack of dawn or who began class bright and early. "Yeah. I love Alice in Wonderland." He lapses into brief reverie. "God. It's been forever since I've read any of it. Man."

I was used to this laid-back south Floridian tangential stream-of-consciousness verbiage, though, and it soon served as inspiration. I looked at my watch. "Hey, I've gotta go."

He didn't even need words, just his look enough asked the question.

So I supplemented. "I've got to write."

I threw on my headphones and prayed that the skies overhead might be only idly threatening -- at least until I made the long trek back to my efficiency apartment. In the meanwhile, I scanned the songs on my portable digital music player for my latest obsession. To most individuals passing by me and I them, it might seem as if I were just walking along, taking note of my surroundings and listening to music. Sometimes, I wouldn't even listen to anything; I'd psych random people out into believing that I in fact were listening to something, therefore they would maintain their volume, and I might be privy to something other than the trivial musings and matters of my own life. That stuff is just fascinating. I personally think we're in denial if we think it isn't. And everyone seems to construct their lives into such a way that they project things not as they are, but as they want them to be for the fear that they are so trivial. But that's why I hate melodrama.

And I digress. Personal commentary. It's the part of a piece of fiction that the author edits out before final printing as it's actually quite self-indulgent, and only remains in the piece during its initial creation stages. When the author is still either standing upon the invisible soapbox, or hiding behind the curtain. We do it to enhance our own egos, and make ourselves feel better about whatever it is we're feeling terribly about. It's been my observation that every writer feels terrible about something. That's why, instead of other things, we write. Anyhow, onward.

It did sprinkle a bit that day, but it wasn't enough to soak through my book bag, and that was what counted. Unbeknownst to the random individuals waving to me as I walked to my room, I wasn't alone upon my return. I had at least four new entities with me -- even if they hadn't yet names or taken true form. They were finally in existence, and soon, I would be able to learn, and then finally tell, their story. It was exciting. So exciting that nearly a year down the line, my lead actor for the radio drama adaptation would get into an ongoing war with me about the whole process. But that's jumping a bit too far ahead, or, as my father says, putting the cart before the horse. Something I'm guilty of attempting to do on multiple occasions.

Like an addict in search of a fix, I first checked all of my e-mail -- critique lists, and other groups to which I belong regarding various interests -- and then shut it all down, closed it all off, and opened my word processor.