At the Crossroads of Infinity . . .

Pick a point, any point.  It can, literally, be anything, anywhere, anytime.  From this point, look out in all directions.  Imagine an invisible line, tiny, microscopically thin, shooting through time and space.  If you were to imagine this line replicated again and again and again–would there be any end to it?  A million lines, a billion, a billion-billion . . . they would shoot out, imperceptibly, everywhere, never ending, always seeking and probing and searching for something more.

lines

 

This is the kind of feeling I always get when I sit down to write a new story.  A story can begin anywhere.  For instance, take the following situation . . .

Sharon is a thirty-year-old woman who works for a computer software company as a technical writer.  She is the only liberal-arts sort of person amid a sea of logically thinking programmers.  She enjoys her job, mostly enjoys her coworkers, but sometimes feels out of place.  On one particular afternoon, she neglects to save a document she has been working on for several hours.  Her mind is elsewhere–on her parents’ divorce, her daughter Lauren’s struggles adjusting to the first grade, her creepy new neighbor who too often studies her with something in his eyes she doesn’t like.  And when the prompt pops up to save her changes, she doesn’t do it.   Only after closing out of the document does she realize what she’s done.  Hours of work gone to waste.  She will need to start all over, work late–it’s a time-sensitive document, and needs to be finished by tomorrow.  How could she have been so stupid?  She calls her sister, asks if she can babysit Lauren until she gets home.  “I’m so sorry,” she says.  Her sister tells her it’s no problem.

Hours later, nearing evening now, she arrives home, exhausted, frustrated.  Alarm bells immediately ring in her head when she pulls into the drive.  Her sister’s car is nowhere to be found.  “It’s okay,” she tells herself.  She must have picked Lauren up and taken her to her own house.  She pulls out her cell, calls her sister.  While the phone on the other end rings, she notices her neighbor sitting out in a lawn chair.  He salutes her with a beer bottle and smiles.  Something inside her crawls.  Of all people, why did he have to buy the house next door?

She gets her sister’s voice mail, leaves a message.  She tries to convince herself that everything is all right, but a bad feeling nags her, takes hold of something deep within, and locks on tight.

***********

Where should this story begin?  What would the first scene look like?  The first paragraph?  The first sentence?  You could start it anywhere.  Maybe at the office, just when Sharon fails to save her changes and realizes she needs to start over.  Maybe earlier that day, in the lunch room, when she has an upsetting conversation with a coworker.  Maybe when she calls her sister, asking her to babysit.  Maybe when she arrives home, sees her ogling neighbor, and gets a bad feeling.  Any one of these starting points would work, along with so many others.  The options beckon, tantalize, mock, jockey for position.  And it doesn’t end when an opening sequence is selected.  Whichever way you begin a story has reverberations that filter through the rest of it, like ripples in a pond.  One sentence leads to the next, one scene shapes and influences the next.  At every stage, there are decisions, choices, and consequences.

linesinspace

 

When I began writing The Eye-Dancers, I had a premise–three boys each sharing the same dream, three nights in a row.  Each one thinks he is the only one having the dream, not realizing–yet–that it’s a shared experience.  Given this, I could have started the novel anywhere.  I decided to begin with Mitchell Brant in the midst of this recurring nightmare–dreaming of the “ghost girl”–again.  How would the novel read, though, if I had opened with Joe Marma or Ryan Swinton instead?  Or even Marc Kuslanski, the one protagonist who does not experience this dream?  The idea, the overall concept of the plot, might have remained the same, but the end result, with each scene leading in to the next, would have looked quite different.

And of course with writing, with art–there are no airtight equations, no 1 + 2 = 3 comfort zones.

equations2

 

Whatever choice you make on page 7 will influence what happens on page 8, and page 88 and page 308.  It is natural to ask, throughout the process, “Did I make the right choice?”  But the thing is, in a story, in a movie, in a painting, in a song–there is no “right” and “wrong.”  There is only art.  Hopefully, a story will interest and captivate the reader, a movie enthrall the viewer, a painting mesmerize the onlooker, and a song move and engage the listener.  Even then, every reader is different, every viewer unique.  In the end, all we can do is tell our story the best way we know how, tell it with feeling and passion, with heart–tell it because, if we don’t let it out, it will scratch and kick and punch, demanding to be let loose onto the page.

At one juncture in The Eye-Dancers, the intuitive, imaginative Mitchell Brant tells the logical, rational Marc Kuslanski, “Haven’t you ever just felt something to be true?”  When it comes to art–that may well be our best guide as we travel through the myriad choices at our disposal.  You can write the greatest scene in the world (it would pass the technical 1 +2 = 3 test with flying colors)–but if it seems out of place, if it doesn’t feel right to you, then it doesn’t belong in your story.  The detail-oriented work of revisions and line editing await–but the creative first-draft stage is all about endless possibilities and wide, expansive vistas that spread out before us like green, lush valleys full of promise and potential.

valley

 

All those choices can be daunting.  You can take your story anywhere.  But isn’t life like that, too?  Each moment presents its own limitless set of possibilities, and whichever course you take directly influences the next moment, and the next, and the next . . .

Daunting?  Yes.  But liberating, too.

Because every day, every minute, every second, we stand . . .

infinity

 

. . . at the crossroads of infinity.

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

55 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. merrildsmith
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 18:28:41

    So true, Mike, and you’ve expressed it very well. I’ve had this type of experience writing non-fiction, too, but it’s wonderful when you get that moment when it just feels right and everything comes together.

    Reply

  2. barbaramonier
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 19:15:12

    Lovely. Period.

    Reply

  3. Sonya Solomonovich
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 20:06:49

    I trust my instincts in writing, as in life. I used to be much more beset with doubts, but now I just write much more confidently. I think knowing how to make those choices without regret comes with experience.

    Reply

  4. 2embracethelight
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 20:31:51

    Hi Mike
    Ya know…and as a writer you are probably going WHAT? What is up with her expressions here 😀 All the writers I know seem to share that same sentiment. For me, sitting down when the inspiration is there, the emotional, and creative juices fly in from every port and it is hard to put them all in a organized file to write. But I stay as focused as possible. I enjoyed your post. You always present some interesting and helpful styles that make you such a good writer.
    Yisraela

    Reply

  5. The Other Side of Ugly - To Whom it May Concern:
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 23:13:36

    Excellent post Mike! Thank you.

    Reply

  6. Lyn
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 01:46:17

    Well, for a start, I hope that scenario is a teaser for a book you are currently writing, or at least thinking of writing. And, if so…how soon before that book is available?

    Reply

  7. sakuraandme
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 02:03:44

    Haha! I felt like I was reading a story in the making! Lol. 🙂 I love the way you write.
    Enjoy the weekend. Hugs Paula xx

    Reply

  8. Sam Han
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 03:51:15

    So true and very well expressed. Life is like that. Cause and effect 😀 Thanks for making me understand life better through your post here. Now i have words for how i felt 😀

    Reply

  9. honeydidyouseethat?
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 05:42:28

    How you tie all these blogs to your book is pretty amazing. Love the writing lessons. Wonder how much of your original was deleted.

    Reply

  10. Fashion Mayann
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 13:59:14

    Wow, what a great read ! First, I thought that your brain must go crazy when you write, and when I came to the end, I realized that “liberating” is the word to choose indeed ! So many choices, so little time … it really makes me want to enjoy every little second of my life, and I thank you for this !

    Reply

  11. I HAVE A VOICE
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 20:12:47

    amazing ! Thank you !

    Reply

  12. stormy1812
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 00:54:44

    having choices is wonderful but so hard for me lol, im terrible at making choices and possibly why i went into journalism – the choices are narrowed for me. i suppose it’s difficult because i got along for the longest time not having to make hard choices because they were virtually made for me. that said – it is wonderful to have choices and to be able to take stories in whatever direction you want. i couldn’t help but want to say at the end of this piece “to infinity… and beyond!” that is virtually the point right? 🙂

    Reply

  13. lolarugula
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 03:25:32

    You’ve just explained in one post why the book in my head has never made it to paper. Great post once again Mike! And just that short blurb made me want to read the whole story…There IS a whole story, right? 🙂

    Reply

  14. Charron's Chatter
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 14:02:29

    so true! POV makes a huge difference. Your piece brought to mind the Oz remake–of which I am a huge and instant fan, and yet adore the original–that Wizard’s viewpoint was fresh! (and handsome helped..hehe)

    Although a Word Doc CAN be retrieved if closed without saving–through file–recent–recover unsaved doc…* says she, annoyingly *

    your nugget mentioning the boys common dream has me back to the Kindle thing–and needing one…I will drop an E…

    and oh yeah…great write! You transition seamlessly and so interestingly…and j’adore the infinity afire, there…

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jul 08, 2013 @ 19:23:04

      Thanks, Karen! And you’re right about the Word point! I kind of knew I goofed after I published this post . . . I confess, though, one time I did close a document without saving, and failed to retrieve it with the recover unsaved command.:( A lot of extra, unnecessary work was the result! Always great hearing from you.:)

      Reply

  15. insearchofitall
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 16:47:05

    I want to read the end of that story. Fascinating. I love how you write and you are teaching me sooo much. Thank you.

    Reply

  16. BroadBlogs
    Jul 08, 2013 @ 18:45:28

    I’m always fascinated by your point, when I’m made to recall it: what if I had made a different choice here or there, how would my life be different? How would I be different? It’s a really interesting and thought-provoking question.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jul 08, 2013 @ 19:32:20

      It is indeed! And it plays right in with one of the main themes in “The Eye-Dancers”–parallel worlds and quantum physics—but that is a discussion for another day.:)

      Reply

  17. reocochran
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 10:28:14

    I like the start of the story, poor Sharon, worrying about her neighbor and her daughter, Lauren. I think it is great to see how many ways the story can go, all those “leads” to the next point…

    Reply

  18. Dilip
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 16:23:53

    Well written and very interesting. Thanks 🙂

    Reply

  19. Christy Birmingham
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 17:52:19

    Each decision certainly does have consequences in later pages… whether it is writing a book or writing a page in real life…

    Reply

  20. Sue Dreamwalker
    Jul 10, 2013 @ 12:37:17

    Infinite possibilities…. And you explain them so well….. just as in life.. we each choose the path we travel.. and its up to us which road we take… ..
    Always good to read your thoughts Mike.. 🙂
    ~Sue

    Reply

  21. vision5d2012
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 02:00:12

    Thanks for this insight, Mike. I hadn’t realized it until I read this that finding the correct starting point, or point of entry is the process I encounter each time I write. Ideas will be swimming about in my mind, arranging and re-arranging themselves until — bam — the beginning of the post (or the article or the book) just drops into place.

    The cool thing is — there is no “right” way or place to start. All options remain as possibilities, until I choose one. From there the other elements relate to that option or grow from it. I usually know within a paragraph or two if this is the “right” option for a particular piece. When it’s right, it feels right in my whole being and the words just flow onto the page/screen. Thanks again, Alia

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:41:17

      Thanks, Alia! And it’s very true that there is no “right” place to begin a piece. It’s “right” on an intuitive level–you just know . . . without “knowing”! Writing and creativity are definitely not for the Marc Kuslanskis of the world, who want everything categorized by neat equations and certainties . . . Great hearing from you!

      Reply

  22. likeitiz
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 15:26:35

    I have always admired good story tellers for their patience in allowing stories, lives practically, unfold.

    Reply

  23. Lucia Maya
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 04:07:27

    Great post, and your story (in your novel) is reminding me of a wonderful movie, “Jeff Who Lives at Home”. Highly recommend it!

    Reply

  24. ampbreia
    Jul 24, 2013 @ 13:17:13

    Very true… but given that a potential reader will very quickly judge what’s interesting enough to continue reading, then it’s certainly best to beging in the midst of action or intrigue, which is just what you did with Eye Dancers. There was no space at all for the reader to shrug and look away and that’s as it should be in my opinion.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jul 24, 2013 @ 13:40:18

      Thank you! And I tend to agree. Generally the best openings are the ones that really grab a reader’s attention and make them want to keep reading. Always great to hear from you!

      Reply

  25. WordsFallFromMyEyes
    Jul 25, 2013 @ 09:03:05

    I live for when it feels “just right” 🙂

    Interesting article, reading of another writer.

    Reply

  26. readinpleasure
    Aug 02, 2013 @ 15:52:23

    very interesting post

    Reply

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