Monday, January 23, 2006

Driving The Mood

Some writing days wear me out. Now and then someone has a shortcut or at least something that spins me in a different direction, though.

A day or so ago, Daisy offered up a terrific exercise on coming up with character names that I enjoyed, but when I tried formulating character names, for some reason all I could think of were the unusual names some of my friends have had for their cars, of all things.

Lee had the Trout Mobile, a foreign six-banger that looked like it lived for mud (his parents owned an RV fishing camp on the banks of the Illinois River at the time) and he also had the Spent Hog. Sal had Cougie, the Cougar. JC who unabashedly enjoys his porn named his truck Debbie (for “Debbie Does Dallas”). [Okay, so I’m rolling my eyes on that one, but hey…if that keeps the ole girl running for him to coo to her as Debbie, so be it.]

Daisy’s exercise had me thinking, though, and I came up with some interesting names that I didn’t know I had in me. When I tried her trick of using a pet’s name + a street where I once lived + the name of an elementary teacher I had, I wound up with Pita Pecan McCall.

I think my neighbor’s truck is called Whore. That’s what he spouts every morning when he jumps inside and cranks ‘er, anyway. Could be a 'pet' name for his wife for all I know. In any case, I make it a point never to attempt writing romance until after that truck starts and he’s on his way to work. Definite mood killer if I don't.

Sometimes one of the best things a writer can do for themselves when they’re searching for a ‘mood’ is to read other writers. One author whose lyrical language always puts me in great spirits is Barry Lopez. If you’ve ever read Arctic Dreams, River Notes, or Desert Notes (the last two are now in one volume), you know what I’m talkin’ about—the man is pure poetry, a wordsmith extraordinaire. I discovered him in the early 90’s and have been a fan ever since.

There are certain blogs whose words help frame my writing mood, too. Take just the first paragraph of this one by Samantha Winston on oranges and see if that doesn’t touch at least two or three of your senses. Pop into Merry’s place and view her latest photos of the dogs or her hand-made quilting projects if you want a visual.

Check out Douglas’s humor (I adore this inveterate smartass liberal who has a wicked wit and tons of information) at “Balls and Walnuts” (title of this particular blog—he has more). His Friday 13th post for January is typical of his self-effacing but quite revealing personality.

If you’re looking for mood music, Rinda at The Write Snark is your DJ. (She also has some pretty cute tee-shirts and tales from life at home to offer. Her hubby’s digging through a dusty attic and finding a particular romance novel she’d lost in an earlier move redeemed whatever un-romantic feelings I may have had that day.)

Many of my writer buds hate coming up with titles for their manuscripts. I seem to fall into mine; in other words they find me, not the other way around. I was writing a short story based on having to go to trial – one grandmother sued another for the land that she’d deeded her. Seems a land developer became interested, the whole fam-damily went to war, and I had to testify at the trial since I was there when Party A deeded over the property to Party B. Long story short, I was back in college for my master’s at the time, and one of the courses was on William Faulkner—the book of that month was As I Lay Dying.

Anyway, Party A lost the battle, flew back to California, and promptly died. Her daughter there, who had instigated the feud and talked her into suing to get the land back was pissed and shipped Gran’s body back home for burial COD…C.O.muther-fucking D.—and nobody would pay for it. Well, here I am, trial over, a test on Faulkner coming up, and I was still, after all a writer. Short story in question for another class became “As I Lay Flying” as my short story became my ventilation valve for what was happening within my own life. The family wasn’t amused when they heard about it, but the professor gave me an A.

My aunt in California eventually paid the charges, by the way, after Gran sat in the refrigerated section of the airport a few hours and it looked like she’d be flying storage-class back to California. And you thought you had some strange goins-on in your clan?

How about you? Do names find you, or do you find them? What are some of your favorites for your characters, stories, or cars? My favorite character I’ve named was Eazy (nickname for Elizabeth); short story was “What Do I Do With My Dead Husband’s Sperm?” (in the sperm bank, after the guy died); and car was “Slick”, the black convertible.

One thing I love to set the mood is music--another is a great photo. A friend of mine recently visited Peru.

Here’ something I found online describing the trip they took: "After almost four hours by train, on one of the most impressive and spectacular stretches in the world, from high, cold early morning plains down to lush vegetation in the frequently suffocating late morning heat, one arrives at the foot of the mountain Machupijchu. Then the eight kilometer road of thirteen zigzag hairpins in an acrobatic bus takes us up the mountain, and one arrives at the hotel. From here, it is only a few steps and the city opens itself. ..."

Descriptive writing that reminds me of Barry Lopez, which brings me back full circle. Read good writing, view great pictures, listen to inspiring music, and drive your own mood.

If none of the above provide inspiration, try laughing. Take a trip to the photo booth with Leno.



At 6:26 AM, Blogger Jill Monroe said...

Lyn - you for sure win the strange goings on in a family. Wow. Glad you got your A

At 8:52 AM, Blogger Sam said...

Love the truck story - LOL!
moods change - I try to write no matter what mood I'm in. If want inspiration I usually put some music on, grab a book from my keeper shelf and re-read it!

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Merry said...

My current 4Runner is Calvin because the kids named my previous van Hobbes. Eldest daughter's car is Vladimir. DH named his '65 Mustang covertible Bonnie Lee.

Titles usually appear to me within a few chapters, if I dont' have one already. I tend to make up a title and then write the book.

At 3:42 PM, Blogger Lyn Cash said...

I probably shouldn't have outted my family like that - it was several years ago but still pisses me off.

Glad you enjoyed the truck story, Sam - that guy cracks me up every time he jumps in, cranks her, and pounds the steering wheel crying "Whore!" I haven't had the nerve (nor the inclination, really) to ask him whazzup with that.

And Merry - the dog photo at the beginning of this post reminded me of Pita (mine) and your new acquisition for some reason. Your car names crack me up! - LOL. And you always have kewl titles for your stories. Not one of my strong suits. I'm gonna have to start letting you help name them.

At 4:51 PM, Blogger Annalee Blysse said...

Love that too pooped to party pic. Well, wouldn't mind going to Peru either.

At 10:34 AM, Blogger Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

The dog photo is hilarious, Lyn! Actually, I didn’t know if it was a dog or cat or something else until I read the comments here. LOL And I loved the truck whore story. Makes me like my neighbors a little better.

Thanks for the mention, Lyn. :-D Just to let you know, I have all the results from both my pseudonym blog and character name blog compiled and posted and you’re profiled there along with the other participants. ;-) It’s quite a long post but fun, and from the e-mails I’ve received, readers are enjoying it. I’ll definitely have to do more of this sort of thing in the future. The only downside is that it took forever to do, which left me way behind on my blog surfing and commenting (not to mention my writing)!

As for titles, your “As I Lay Flying” story is priceless. I create titles without much trouble. I usually begin a manuscript with a temp title and then at some point in the story I’ll pen a line and have that aha moment and then pluck out those few words because they exemplify a perfectly apropos title.

I also listen to music while writing. It’s so inspiring. In fact I’m one of those weird people who cries at one point or another during concerts, whether they’re classical, jazz or rock, because the music is so moving/happy/sad/rousing/etc. As I write I vary the style and tempo of what I listen to with the story. I’ve found that I need instrumental rather than vocals when I really need to focus, and then there are other portions of the manuscript which seem to demand vocals.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Lyn Cash said...

Annalee, I was just over at your place a couple days ago - just didn't post because someone knocked on the door. Great to see you.

Daisy, your musical needs run similar to mine it seems. One of my favorite sound tracks to write to is from the movie "Witness" when I want something 'moving'.

At 1:40 PM, Blogger Shesawriter said...

I'm awful at titles. All my title names suck. LOL!


At 11:45 PM, Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Hey, Lyn! Thanks for the shout. It never fails to tickle me when I come visiting and see my name up in lights. (And, yeah, I came visiting, none of that Technorati snoopin' around.)

That dog kills me. Posting that photo, I'm sure you must be breaking laws in Utah and several Southern states.

At 10:09 AM, Blogger Lyn Cash said...

I hope you're not accusing me of pushing puppy porn, Douglas. I love dogs. Oh. Wait. Typical excuse no matter the subject matter. Rats. Wonder if there's an Anonymous group for that one???

At 12:54 PM, Blogger Rinda Elliott said...

I love to write to instrumental music! I collect so many kinds of music, which you'll find on my blog.

Thanks for the plug, Lyn!)

Some days I post on rock, some days instrumental, etc. Yesterday, I posted a link to the soundtrack for The Shipping News. Oh man, that one gets me every time. If you haven't heard it, rush there now.

If you write fantasy, Edgen Animations is the place to find instrumental music.
He composes for film and games-- wonderful, wonderful composer.

I cry with really emotional music, too. :)

At 12:58 PM, Blogger Rinda Elliott said...

Actually, a better place to hear Egden music is at He is the actual composer. He even categorizes the style for what you need:

» latest_music.xml
» action_adventure.xml
» epic.xml
» drama.xml
» horror.xml
» piano.xml
» ambient.xml
» electronic.xml
» vocals.xml
» upbeat_comedy.xml
» remixes.xml
» justins_favorites.xml
» all_tracks.xml

At 3:10 PM, Blogger Lyn Cash said...

Oh, how kewl - THANKS, Rinda!!!

At 4:10 PM, Blogger Merry said...

LOL at puppy porn...

BTW, Lyn...TWF,TFE,JM is one of my daughters' fave movies. You might want to find a little Aussie film called Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert. Supposedly, To Wong Foo was America's version...

I also write to instrumental - can't do it to music I know the words to - you know why. I shall check out this edgen or justin dude...

Thanks, Rinda.

At 10:51 PM, Blogger Lyn Cash said...

Mer', you never cease to amaze me. Not a movie I'd have thought you'd have seen - lol. I'm IMPRESSED. One of these days I'm gonna pick your brain and find out what instrumental music you listen to. If it helps with writing narrative, I need it. NOT my strong suit, and I'm hip deep in it right now.


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