Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lizards, Turkey and Voice

Thanks to Jessica for sharing her experiences and reminding us that although things might be different, there's an underlying sameness to the basics of our lives.

A while back, fellow author Patricia Stoltey mentioned seeing some cow street art in Colorado. I was reminded of a LizArt project here in Orlando some years ago, in which artists created sculptures using basic lizard "templates."

As I Googled my way to digging up what I could find on the LizArt project (not knowing its name slowed me down a bit), I couldn't help but think about how this relates to writing. After all, for a writer, everything relates to writing.

There are writers who refuse to divulge anything about a project until it's published. I've read and heard comments from writers who won't enter contests because they're convinced the judges will steal their ideas.

I remember the first "brilliant" scene I created for my first manuscript. This was years ago, and cell phones weren't commonplace. How clever, I thought, as I wrote the following:

“It’s all right. Let me be there for you. Please.”

“I want to.” She wondered if he could hear her—she could barely get the words through the lump in her throat.

“Let me in, Sarah. I’m here for you.”

She sniffed. “I do want to, honest.”

“Open your door.”

Sarah walked to the door and peered through the peephole. Across the hall, cross-legged, leaning against the wall, sat Randy, talking into his cell phone. That lock of his hair still hung into his eyes. She longed to brush it back. She went to release the deadbolt, but her hand shook. Weak-kneed, she sank to the floor. “Not yet,” she whispered.

Of course, I felt totally betrayed when I saw this kind of a scene on television for the first time. I still get defensive whenever I see one. Hey! I thought of it all by myself. First.

There's nothing all that new out there. Just as no two of the lizards were alike, if you give ten writers the same setup, you'll get ten different books. How many "Cinderella" variations have you read?

A very common workshop will instruct participants to write a paragraph or two, either using a prompt or a picture as inspiration. When they read them to the group, no two are alike. The same prompt might end up with a comic take, a dark edge, or a paranormal bent.

As a writer, you have to trust that you will be putting your own creativity, your own spin, your own voice into every story you tell.

Most of my readers will be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow. I wish everyone a special day, and ask that no matter what your cultural background might be, that you take a few moments to give thanks. We all have things we're thankful for, whether we set aside a day to celebrate or not.

Tonight, my "other" daughter (the triathlete you met earlier) will be flying in from Colorado to spend the holiday weekend with her husband's family, who are spending a week at a nearby time share. Although we'll be joining them for their Thanksgiving meal, my daughter has insisted that I contribute "our" family stuffing to the dinner, in a blend of traditions.

Speaking of traditions: On Twitter yesterday, someone asked about family traditions. I mentioned that one of ours was "Alice's Restaurant." She wanted to know if that was where we went out to eat. I forget how old I'm getting! Anyone my age knows it's not the name of the restaurant…

So – anyone who can tell me how many 8x10 color glossy pictures there were (with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one) can have a copy of our family stuffing recipe. Just email me the answer to terry (at) terryodell (dot) com (link on blog sidebar and website) with your email address, and I'll send it to you.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I get that question a lot at workshops--am I worried my agent/editor/critiquers will steal my ideas? Lots of copyright questions.

You're so right--we all approach stories differently, by virtue of our different backgrounds and experiences.

"Alice's Restaurant" didn't strike a chord in me until I saw your tags at the bottom of your post...and then I remembered. :)

Hope you have a great Thanksgiving, Terry.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Terry Odell said...

When I worked for a company with huge number of young employees, I used the "Group W Bench" to decide if we could carry on intelligent conversations.

Jess said...

Kid, have you rehabilitated yourself?

Carol Kilgore said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you, Terry. Love the lizards. Corpus Christi did that with porpoises. It was called Dances with Dolphins:

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Carol. So we have cows, lizards and dolphins. What else. Even the "street art" concept is unique in its own way.

Mona Risk said...

Happy Thanksgiving Terry. I love traditions.

Watery Tart said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the lizard art. I went through a 'Southwest chic' phase and lizards are integral (as are the festive skeletons of dia del muerte fame).

And you're right... Everyone writes differently. I warned someone not too long ago not to share TOO MUCH because it could be stolen, but a chapter or two--not enough, and I am even less worried about a query type summary. The full synopsis might lead to too much overlap, but it STILL can't imitate my writing or the details I intend to include.

(and it seems to me an agent/editor type would be easy to win a case against, so the temptation on their end would be lower)

GunDiva said...

I love Alice's Restaurant and I "got" it right away. However, I don't remember the number of 8x10 glossies on the wall. Love Arlo Guthrie. Thanks for making me smile :)

Terry Odell said...

GunDiva - check back tomorrow!

Jess said...

I know how many!!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Terry,
Good article. Interesting how everyone worries about other writers stealing our ideas. But when you get down to it, there is no copyright on ideas.



Terry Odell said...

Margaret, and WT -

I don't think two people would write the same book even if they had the same synopsis. (And then again, how many 'duplicates' are already out there -- pick a genre, pick a series, and someone will take it and put their own spin on it. Some better than others)

Editors are always saying, they want "the same, but different"

Patricia Stoltey said...

Of course I focused almost exclusively on the lizards. They are gorgeous!

Worry about anyone stealing my ideas? Not so much. I have way too many ideas to use up in my lifetime, so I might as well share.

Terry Odell said...

Patricia - if you Google LizArt you will find links to more photos. I think there were over two dozen sculptures.

SiNn said...

I dont know the answer justw anted to stop by check out your blog after the invite from Brenda williamsons loop

Terry Odell said...

SiNn - thanks for stopping by. And if you check Thurday's blog the answer will be there.

PhyllisC said...

We have a restaurant that has done that with gators. They are life size statues that have been dressed in different themes.