There is a technique for writing called Free Fall, whereby you let yourself follow a writing prompt, a phrase designed to spark your imagination, to see where it leads. Don’t take your pen off the page, don’t edit, don’t spell check, just write.
It doesn’t always produce earth shattering writing but it ALWAYS makes you think and ultimately makes you write, which, as all writers and even people who don’t consider themselves writers, know,is sometimes a very hard thing to do. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction you write or memoir or even creative non-fiction, the pen in motion is the key. Afterall, writing can be compared to jumping into the pool for the first time.
You’ve all done it, stood on the edge of the pool, dipped your toe in, shivered and then broke into your best Chevy Chase impersonation, swinging your arms back and forth until they clap in front of you, chanting the whole time “This is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy.” Like that mantra will give you the courage somehow to jump in. The time this take varies from person to person and the time of year, but eventually we all take that plunge. It’s shocking at first and all you can think is “DAMN! That was stupid, time to get out.”
But, you don’t and eventually the water feels fine and inspires you to swim. It’s just getting in those first few strokes, those first few words until your writers eye opens and the scene fills your head and your reluctant pen is soon scratching its way fervently across the page. And you are just along for the ride, your eyes not seeing the page, glossed over instead like some oracle seeing the future.
I am taking a ‘course’ with Ruth Walker of Writescape, as I have no doubt told you before, and we did some Free Fall writing last night. I didn’t get an earth shattering piece like I did last Monday (I’ll share that with you in a bit), but I got writing done. Any writing, is much better than no writing and who knows, I may find something in it I can use later.
Now, Ruth gave a huge compliment to a well deserving writer and facilitator, Sue Reynolds in that her Free Fall writing guidance was one of the best. And while I agree, Ruth was selling herself short.
My point? Writing ideas can come from anywhere, a lyric from a song, an over-heard phrase or even fortune sticks. Which is where the following piece came from, fortune sticks. I really liked this piece and it’s not what it says, it’s how I crafted it and the contrasts in it that I am really happy with. Thanks, Nora, for the help with Cajun.
See if you can find some of the hints I hid in it. I’ll get you started. Check out the translation for Alouette.
Playing With Words: Assignment #1
“Louis Peter Garou”
By Dale Long.
“A nasty message will arrive from a friend” Peter read aloud around a mouthful of fortune cookie, little bits piggy-backing his words into daylight.
He looked around the barren hole-in-the-wall take out restaurant, suddenly sure he shouted it out, but no-one paid him any mind. The cashier was behind the service window, Peter could hear them arguing in Chinese or Japanese or maybe even Taiwanese, over the clatter of pots and hiss of food on the fryer. It was off-peak hours and Peter was the sole occupant of the small dining area. Just him, three dingy tables with two chairs each, their red vinyl torn and ratty, and two booths – of which he occupied one- against the dirty window overlooking the street. Most people ordered out anyway.
“If I had any friends,” He muttered to the empty bench seat keeping him company. “I might be worried.”
The door to the kitchen banged open and a woman emerged carrying a pitcher of water, ice clacking against its plastic sides.
“More water?” She asked, reaching for Peter’s glass.
Peter kept his eyes downcast, focused on the table, and nodded, the rhythmic crunching of his fortune cookie loud in his ears. He never once looked up, never once made eye contact. He couldn’t, he wouldn’t, but he wanted to. The old part of him wanted to drink in her subtle curves, inhale her sandalwood scent, swim in her eyes, but the new him refused, the new him was afraid.
“Would you like anything else?”
Peter shook his head and mumbled. “Just the bill please.”
The server walked back to the kitchen and Peter didn’t raise his eyes until she had cleared the door.
The battered bell above the entrance rattled as a large shadow filled its space.
“If dat ain’ de smell o’ good food, den I ain’ nevah smelled food. Where you be, ma petite alouette?”
The serving girl returned at the sound, a smile softening her features and a rosy glow colouring her cheeks.
“Mr. Garou, you’re back just in time. Your order is ready.”
“Merci, cherie, but call me Lou.”
Momentarily forgetting himself, Peter watched the girl shamelessly flirt with the new customer as he peeled neat bills off a billroll to pay for his order. As she passed back his change, Peter saw her slip a scrap of paper to him. The stranger pocketed the change and her number and plucked a toothpick from the small container on the counter depositing it between parallel rows of the largest, whitest teeth Peter had ever seen. Lou turned and caught Peter, gape-mouth staring.
“She only whets de appetite, non?”
Startled, Peter’s mouth groped for words.
“De Chinese food,” Mr. Garou said hold his bag aloft. “Be hoon-gray again in an hour, eh?”
He clucked his tongue and winked at Peter, the toothpick jutting from the corner of his lopsided grin, before walking out the door. Strains of his singing carried back into the restaurant.
“Alouette, gentille Alouette, Aouette, je te plumerai, Je te plumerai la tete…”
When Peter approached the counter to pay his bill, the server girl was all business once again.
Peter fished the money out of his pocket and sorted through the crumpled bills and change. Two fives, two toonies and a loonie he handed to her. She gingerly accepted the money and moved to hand him the change, no scrap of paper included.
“Keep the change.” Peter mumbled at his shoes.
The battered bell clattered, marking his exit and stayed with him all the way back to his dark, empty apartment.