Last summer I met Kerry Gans, a fellow writer, for a writing play date. I had an idea that I had been working on for a couple of years but I just couldn’t get a handle on. I knew everything about the main character, Lucy. In fact, she was so bright and clear in my head she was essentially running around and kicking me in the ear yelling “Let Me Out! I’ve got stuff to do!” So I started talking to Kerry. No, to be fair, I started talking AT Kerry. I told her about Lucy, I talked about the town where Lucy lives, her family’s circumstances, her parent’s reasons for moving, her brother’s personality, her cat’s name and her favorite food. I essentially flung the entire unwieldy, flapping mess at her head.
She made a suggestion. Click! The whole thing started to slide around. Kerry made another suggestion, asked a couple of questions and click-click-click-CLICK!! Shutters moved and whirled and suddenly I had a super nova in my head.
One summer in high school I worked in a restaurant as a salad chef (I have a point here, I promise). One of the many things I learned there was how to make really amazing chicken salad. And we sold a LOT of chicken salad. One day I couldn’t get the taste right. Mayonnaise, sour cream, cream fraise, all the dashes and bits were there, I was sure. I finally appealed to the slightly terrifying chef. He tried a bite, and said: “No salt.” I slunk off, added salt and the chicken salad was perfect.
Now do you see the point? When I was working on my own and just couldn’t get the story (or chicken salad) right, it took going to someone who knew what they were doing. A suggestion here, a question there and suddenly – a super nova. Or really good chicken salad.