Friday, January 19, 2018

How I Stay in the Audience


By D.M. Pulley


My sister always asks me, “What do you mean you don’t know what will happen next in the story? How can you not know what the characters will do? You’re the writer!” Well, let me try to explain.

I do all my writing in a cushy recliner the sales person called a “snuggler,” which sits in a sunbeam in my living room, whenever there is sun in Cleveland anyway. I like to huddle under a warm blanket, grab my laptop, and kick up my feet like I’m about to watch a movie. Some writers prefer the professional atmosphere of an office, but my office is reserved for storing the kids' hand-me-downs and piling up random papers no one wants. After a decade working as an engineer hunched over a keyboard at a modular desk, I prefer comfort. Besides, writing is more like going to the movies than a job for me. Even though there’s hard work involved, most days I sit back, relax, and daydream the story.

What the heck does that mean? Well, it takes a good ten minutes of typing to forget the chair, the living room, my dog, and the feel of my hands on the keyboard. It’s the same hypnotism that makes you forget a movie exists only on a small screen as it sucks you in despite a roomful of distractions. It’s the mental shift that allows you to escape into a really good book and forget you left the oven on (or that you have kids). This state of reverie lets me tune out everything else and be inside the character I’m writing, see what he sees, and feel what he feels. It’s like having a vivid dream or nightmare and watching helplessly as your imagination runs wild. Don’t go into that room! But there you are, opening the door.

In this dream-state, the story just unfolds. Don't get me wrong. At different moments every day I have to get up off my comfy chair and storm around the set like a Hollywood director in a scarf and funny hat, clapping my hands impatiently. Something needs to happen here, people! You. Where are you going? What the heck is your motivation in this scene? Take an acting class! And can someone please get this guy a knife? Who’s on props here? No one likes it, props crash to the ground, and it takes several minutes of loud aimless typing for the actors and me to settle back down into the story.

Fortunately, most of the time my characters know what they’re doing. I set the scene, and then sit back in my snuggler and watch the show. My cast is working without a script, but we have the characters down and we know where the story is heading--well sort of. As any director will tell you, some of the best moments come when you give the actors the freedom to improvise.
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Before becoming a full-time writer, D.M. Pulley worked as a Professional Engineer, rehabbing historic structures and conducting forensic investigations of building failures. Pulley’s structural survey of a vacant building in Cleveland inspired her debut novel, The Dead Key, the winner of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. The disappearance of a family member formed the basis for her second historical mystery, The Buried Book. Pulley’s third novel, The Unclaimed Victim, delves into the dark history behind Cleveland's Torso Killer. She lives in northeast Ohio with her husband, her two children, and a dog named Hobo, and she is hard at work on her fourth book. My social networking links are below (@DMPulleyAuthor), my website is www.dmpulley.com,
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