always asking questions

Did you meet anyone interesting in your recent travels? – James, Alabama.

Of course! When Becky and I went to New Orleans we met some of our LiveJournal friends in person. I would say they’re more than interesting. “Notorious” might be a better word. In both New Orleans and New York City we met writers we’d never met before and, as well all know, writers are always interesting. I also met a cab driver in NYC who reminded me very much of Samir Singh in the Timothy James Beck books. We had a long talk about the decline of western civilization, art, and man’s inability to conduct rational thought on a higher plane of existence while eating BBQ Fritos.

How do you normally start a book? I would assume with the [plot], but even then, where would you get the idea for a story? – Brian, Arizona.

If I’m doing collaborative writing (Timothy James Beck or Cochrane lambert) or working on my own, normally nothing happens unless there’s a main character to write about. Who is this person and what’s their deal? If there’s one or two characters forming in my head with distinct personalities, then ideas for stories will develop around them. However, sometimes ideas will come out of nowhere, though. For a story I wrote called “The Dance” I happened to hear someone complaining about going dancing with her girlfriend, because the girlfriend didn’t like to dance and always sat on the sidelines of the club, so what’s the point? So I used that as a basis of a new short story two characters I’d previously developed. As you can tell from my mixed answer, I have no true answer and I’m just winging it. Which is pretty much like writing in general. Maybe other writers who read my LJ can share their experience in the comments.

You’ve admitted your track record with men is like shit on toast and the dogs you own seem to feel similarly. Maybe it’s you. – LMcG, Boston, Masshole

So you think River died to get the hell away from me, and Rex bit me so I’d put him to sleep and he could follow suit? You’re lovely. Thanks. I freely admit that I’m part of Rex’s problem, and that’s why we’re both signed up to see an canine behavior specialist next Tuesday. I’m a dog, too; ask any of my ex-boyfriends and they’ll tell you.

About timothyjlambert

Timothy J. Lambert is allegedly a writer.
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66 Responses to always asking questions

  1. markgharris says:

    This is so bizarre. I know someone named LMcG in Boston, too. His hobbies include trying to abstain from defecating in his pants, and sucking on his own warts. Wonder if the two are the same.

    • If only he knew that we had so much in common maybe he wouldn’t say such things.

      • markgharris says:

        …you’re right. I’ve ruined a good couple of pairs of pants, up in NYC, and one pair of cut-offs. (They didn’t have those convenient toilets, like those Puterbaugh whippersnappers have, nowadays.) I’m wart-free, though!

        That one’s going on my tombstone, now that I see it in print: He was wart-free.

        I come to your aid with the classiest material, don’t I? : )

        • You’re very classy. Your stories are classy. How about you? Which comes first, plot or character?

          • markgharris says:

            What feels right, for me, is neither plot nor character, at first, but premise:

            What if… (fill in the blank). Like, what if a woman wore a wig on her blind date, and he showed up in a convertible. That kind of thing.

            Then character comes into it. I think about the kind of woman I could have the most fun writing about. I would want her to have an admirable, or noble, trait. And I’d want her to have a really good emotional flaw, one that I could have fun messing with. Her admirable trait could be, she’s a very courageous woman, to be going on a blind date. And her flaw could be she’s the vainest thing going.

            Then I want to imagine the one thing she wants most. Not the things we all want most, like understanding, or love, or huge bankrolls. Something easy for me to grapple with and specific. Like she wants to get revenge on somebody, or she wants a pair of shoes she saw in the window. Once I feel good about what she wants, and it fits with the type of woman I’ve imagined, I dangle that elusive thing in front of her while throwing every obstacle I can to prevent her from getting it easily.

            Hopefully, at some point, she’ll get what she wants, or else not get it, but she’ll change as a result of what she’s gone through. John Smith can tell me he went to the grocery store and bought a head of lettuce, and it’s not much of a story. But if John tells me he went to the grocery store and a woman plucked the very head of lettuce he had his eye on first, and then that he followed that person throughout the store until she wasn’t looking, and “reclaimed” the lettuce, and then in the parking lot saw the her unloading her bags into a van that says, “providing food for the homeless,” or something, and he gives the lettuce back (and then they fall in love!)… then I feel like that’s a story, just for me personally. Plus, I never write extremely long run-on sentences with loads of commas, and feel disdain for those who do, because it sickens me, inside.

            I feel flattered to have been asked, very much. : )

            I hope your friend Brian finds some of this useful. I’m self-taught, so nothing I have to say about it is in stone, it’s just stuff I think about, stuff that’s worked for me, sometimes. (Good luck, Brian! It’s tough work, and it might get the better of you, but then again, you might pull something out of yourself you never knew you had, and that’s great!)

          • I’m self-taught, too, which is why I want other writers to answer as well.

          • Anonymous says:

            I get my ideas at Costco in bulk. (Did I mention I wanted to work in standup? Yeah, yeah, don’t quit my day job.)

            My ideas sometimes start with a character. Then, once the character’s interesting enough (I hope), I play “what if” to see where the story will take him or her. Other times, I start with the “what if” and a character creates itself around that. More often lately, I’ve been getting ideas from things I read–newspaper articles, a phrase in a magazine or an ad, a bit of graffiti–or conversations I accidentally overhear. (Eavesdrop? Heavens, no. Not me.)

            I still have no idea where they come from. I don’t feel like I create them so much as they’re visited on me.

            Jeffrey R.

          • I often feel like the plot or characters happen out of nowhere, but that’s not exactly a helpful suggestion, is it?

          • a phrase in a magazine or an ad, a bit of graffiti–or conversations I accidentally overhear

            Jeffrey, I love it when a chance remark or line from something else kick starts my imagination. That’s the best!

          • Plus, I never write extremely long run-on sentences with loads of commas, and feel disdain for those who do, because it sickens me, inside.

            Could I adore you any more than I do? You crack me up.

          • markgharris says:

            Oh, I’ll crack something… I’m trying to update my journal, you pair of rascals.

  2. dogrl says:

    Wow. Some idiot actually emailed that last to you? Maybe it’s somebody with a ‘short, bald, small penised man syndrome’.

  3. marikanola says:

    I am stunned that anyone could ever send in a question so mean and hateful. You the best TImothy, and River was as muched blessed by having you , as you were by having him, and the same thing goes for Rexford. I’m going to go cry that anyone could ever say anything so mean about a boy and his dogs … and I’m not kidding.

    • Oh, no, please don’t cry. I’m choosing to see the honesty of the question and not think about any mean spiritedness that may be behind it. He or she was right in the sense that River did leave me for a reason, just as he found and chose me for a reason. Everything I learned from River was about love and trust, and nobody can ruin that for me. So, yeah, LMcG was right in that River came to me at a time when I had little faith in love and my ability to love any one or thing in return and proved me wrong, and maybe Rex came to me for similar reasons. Maybe it IS me, because I know I have much more to learn and maybe Rex bit me so I’d seek beyond my comfort zone for a little outside help. There have been many times in the past when I haven’t done that and ruined a good thing by taking the easy way out and just cast aside what was difficult without dealing with it or asking anyone for help. Like I said, I’m a dog. But even old dogs like me and Rex can learn new tricks.

      Let’s only cry about the good stuff. =)

  4. Story Ideas

    How do you normally start a book? I would assume with the [plot], but even then, where would you get the idea for a story? – Brian, Arizona.
    I get my story ideas from all kinds of places, such as a character who pops in my head and talks to me about her story, a plot that needs a character to drive it forward, or a setting will grab me and I have to put the puzzle together as to which character and plot belongs to it. Story ideas are like puzzles to be worked out.
    Ellen

    • Re: Story Ideas

      How organized are you? Do you have lists with characters needing stories, plots needing characters, things you’ve seen and heard, and that sort of thing? I’ve tried and have notebooks filled with notations I hardly ever understand when I look at them later. But heaven forbid I throw them out because someday I may find the Rosetta Stone that deciphers them. You never know.

      • Re: Story Ideas

        You know damn well there has to have been a drag queen named Rosetta Stone…

      • Re: Story Ideas

        How organized are you?
        LOL If I was organized I’d be dangerous.
        Do you have lists with characters needing stories, plots needing characters, things you’ve seen and heard, and that sort of thing?
        Yes, I have a ton of those kind of things. My wife swears that I keep the steno notebook companies in business, but I don’t know which notebook has what info in it. I have a character I developed during a writing exercise in a writing group several years ago, who still hasn’t found the right story. The exercise was to show the reader the character without having the character in the room. She nags at me for a story, but I feel like I haven’t found one that will do her justice. I don’t remeber which notebook has her room description, but I remember her like she’s me. Understand?
        Ellen

  5. markgharris says:

    Oh no. I’ve only just now realized I’m doling out writing advice in the same entry where I admitted I crapped my pants.

  6. People can be such jerks. There seems to be no filter for what is nice or not any longer. People can be so, so hateful.

    I was thinking about the Rosetta Stone comment above, and really, if there is a drag queen out there named Rosetta Stone, is she bi-lingual, multi-lingual? And what would she wear?

    Also for French deciphering, I immediately thought of the French who eat Ortolans. They cover their head, while they eat this bird whole, because it’s supposed to contain the soul of people. It’s actually illegal to kill them in France. However, it sure doesn’t stop people from taking the little bird, baking it, and then popping it whole, into their mouths, eating the bones and all. Therefore, the Rosetta Stone Drag Queen might be deciphered by a Frenchman, but she needs to look out. If the Frenchman starts to cover his head, when approaching…I think she had better run.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ortolan_Bunting
    (You can look at the center of the page for the eating.)

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