What To Write When You Don’t Know What To Write

A young violin student had a chance to play before a visiting maestro. He played his best piece. He put his heart and soul into the performance. Afterwards, he asked the maestro for his opinion. Is he good enough? Does he have what it takes?

The maestro considered. Asked him to play a simple piece, then a complicated one, ran him though exercises. Finally, the great man spoke,

“Technically you are proficient. But that is all. You lack the fire.”

Crestfallen, the young man turned from music to business. He made a fortune in widget distribution. One day, the same maestro came back to town as a guest conductor. At a select sponsors party, the two talked,

“I want to thank you for taking the time to evaluate my playing all those years ago.”

“I didn’t listen. I never do. I tell everyone the same thing.”

The former violin student was thunderstruck. “I changed my life because of you. I change my major because you told me I lack the fire.”

“Ah,” says the great man, “But if you’d had the fire, you would have ignored me.”

This post was supposed to be another fiction sketch. I am having an H of a time – as my grandmother used to say – getting traction on this project. I’ve surfed for writing prompts. I’ve surfed for what to write when you don’t know what to write. One site said, essentially, if you don’t have something to say then you aren’t a fiction writer.

PFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFTTTTTTTTT.

People have been telling me that I can’t write all of my life [Schadenfreude Saturday, My Pain Is Your Amusement]. Why should fiction be any different?

This will happen. I don’t know how, but it will.

Open to any advice on how to jumpstart my inner novelist after a career of writing to order.

Crossposted [Virtual Brush Box]

See you on my book tour,
Katherine Walcott

Analyzing The Alternatives

Variations from yesterday [Alternate Author Photos], with discussion and a few more options. Photos by Meg McKinney [Blog Archive]. Kudos once again to the photographer.
[My New Author Photo]
[Behind the Photo]

Hay Bale Alternate. I like the action feel to this. I look as if I am about to leap up and finish tracking down people to interview. However, Rontaru pointed out the green bucket in the background & now I can’t unsee it.

Truck. I like this one b/c I like my truck. Particularly since I recently had to go a spell without any transportation at all [We Got Wheels]. So I might be emotionally invested. Seen as either hopeful, which is a good thing, or artsy, but not in a good way. Will come in handy if I ever write for the automotive industry. Stranger things have happened.

Post. Several people liked this one. Nice photo. I look good. However, to me it screams senior portrait. Back in the day, a senior portrait was the same cheesy headshot that we got every year. These days, graduating seniors hire photographers to take a full suite of photos, much as I did here. Leaning up against something is a standard pose in these photos. My mind catches on that and stops. Didn’t even notice the truck in the background.

In The Ring. Mainly included yesterday so I could talk about the variation below today.

In The Ring II. If I were to call up a mental picture of myself, this is closest to what it would look like. I don’t know about you, I don’t usually grin when I look in the mirror.

The one I submitted. Compared to the one above with my feet on the ground, this one looks as if I have settled in to write. As for my knee leaping out to greet the viewer – which I also can’t unsee – yeah, it would help if I were more flexible and could drop down into the sit.

Black & White I. Some folks prefer black and white a priori. I like it if the change adds to the conversation. Here it doesn’t.

Black & White II. This one works in black and white because of the texture in the background, even if it does make me look like someone just goosed me.

Colorized. It’s not just for old movies.

Post-processed. The photo shoot included professional retouching of several images. I’ve always been a warts-and-all type of person, particularly when it comes to age. This is what 56 looks like. Deal with it.

The retouching was well done. The result is ghastly. There’s some sort of weird attenuation going on with my head and neck. They look like a balloon on a string. And then my chin looks all pointy and elvish. This version of fakery was easy to reject.

I’m not sure how well my principles would hold up if post-processing made me look better.
~~~
All of this got started because Bending Genres asked for an author photo. Panic. I had one suitable photo. It’s 20+ years old [My Short Happy Modeling Career]. Sent the old one in. Arranged for new ones. Sent the new one in. What did they use? A picture of a forest. Actually, it fits well with the bio I included, Blue Hair, scroll to end.

Now I have something to send in next time someone asks.

Meg’s Links
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Meg head

Crossposted [Virtual Brush Box]

See you on my book tour,
Katherine Walcott

Behind the Photo

Photo by Meg McKinney

I had planned a long post detailing my modeling ordeal [My New Author Photo]. Come the day, it was simple.

We discussed what I would wear (casual). Make-up (not happening). Meg suggested sitting on a haybale. I loved this idea, on brand but not overly horsey, thus useful for non-equine outlets.

Meg reminded me that an animal in a photo would draw the viewer’s eye to the animal, not to mention complicating the shoot itself.

Initially, I wore Rodney’s dark green show shirt. I brought extras. She liked the red of Milton’s show shirt instead.

She took hundreds of photos from half a dozen locations with several poses in each location. Slick hair back. Pull wrinkles out of shirt. Smile. Look over here. Look thoughtful. Click. Click. Click.

You might think it went well because Meg and I are friends. No. I might know you for 20 years. You pick up a camera. You point it at me. I will still look like a gaffed fish.

It went well because I trust Meg as a photographer. I’ve seen enough of her work to know that she wouldn’t make me look like a dork. If she has a twenty-double-zero expertise it is in capturing the moment. Her candid photo-journalism work is outstanding. If anyone could make me look good, it would be she.

This is why one hires a professional.

Now, to find uses for my new author photo.

Meg head

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[Crossposted]

See you on my book tour,
Katherine Walcott

Where Are They Now? Fiction Sketch

Crossposted [Virtual Brush Box]

Another one that started as a question on a blog. In Millennial Life Crisis: Solo Road-Tripping the ‘Highway Thru Hell’, the author ponders initials and names carved on a bridge, “I can’t help but wonder if Abby and Brad ever worked out.”

No. They didn’t.
~~~
The Old Bridge
by Katherine Walcott

My neighbor Vicky and I were on our way into town. I was driving. She was recounting her most recent adventures with online dating. The stories made me thankful to be married. When I turned off Mill Road, she interrupted herself, “Why are you going this way?”

“Family habit,” I said. “We always go this way.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Vicky turning to stare at me. “It’s got to be 10 miles out of the way”

“11.4.” I said.

“What?”

“11.4 miles. I’ve measured it.”

“Then why?”

“My grandmother used to drive to this way. She said it was prettier.”

We drove in silence for a few miles.

After a few more miles of trees, Vicky said. You know the old bridge is perfectly safe, don’t you. All the important bits have been replaced. The wooden parts are strictly decorative. I mean, I’m all for highway scenery, but at this speed, that’s 25 minutes. With the return trip, that’s almost an hour of your life. Was your grandmother that into trees?”

“My Mom has a theory. You know how the wooden slats of the old bridge have names and initials on them? On the upstream side someone carved “Abby & Brad.” You can see it from the car if you know where to look. Well, my grandmother’s name was Abby. My grandfather’s name was not Brad.”

I paused for dramatic effect. I glanced at Vicky. She looked suitable impressed.

“My mom thinks my grandmother drove this way so she didn’t have to go over the bridge and pass those names.”

“Did she ever ask?” Vicky wondered.

“Sure. She said every time she asked, Grammy told her not to be silly and then changed the subject.”

“It’s weird to think of your grandparents as young enough to date.”

“I know, right?”

“Do you think she loved Brad all those years? If she were truly over him, she’d be indifferent. She would have no trouble driving right past.

“Maybe it wasn’t heartache,” I said. “Maybe they broke up after a huge public fight at the Homecoming game. From then on the sight of his name filled her with with righteous rage at the memory of finding him under the bleachers with another woman.”

Vicky countered. “Maybe it was a forbidden romance. Brad was visiting from downstate for the summer. They fell in love. He was heir to the Kwik Loc fortune. He would never be allowed to marry an upstater.”

“Kwik Loc?”

“Yeah, those little thingies that keep bread bags closed,” she explained. “Somebody has to be making money from them. Those things are everywhere.”

“Maybe Brad was charming but old-fashioned.” I said. “He proposed but she wanted to marry someone who would treat her more as an equal. Each time she saw their names together she was overcome with melancholy for what might have been, but she knows she made the right decision. People can have conflicting reasons for what they do.”

Vicky began ranting, “Maybe he was a jerk and she was sorry that she ever saw anything in him and now she can’t stand to drive by his name and she hates herself for thinking he was ever worth wasting time on.”

I glanced at her, “Over-identify much?”

“We all make mistakes. Moving on.” Vicky changed the subject. “Do you know what happened to Brad?”

I shrugged. “History does not record.”

“Imagine if she’d married him instead of your grandfather. Then your inheritance would have been substantially more than questionable driving choices.”

“But then I would never know if anyone liked me for myself or for my bread bag fortune.”

“Bread bag CLOSURE fortune.” she corrected. “Bread BAG money takes their vacations in the islands. They’re kind of snobby.”

I paused to negotiate a tricky corner.

“But seriously, I think Brad was a perfectly normal guy.” I said. “They had a teen romance that didn’t work out. He grew up to be a nice person. He married that other woman and they had 2.3 kids and a station wagon. He spent his life taking the bridge up by the highway, driving 10 miles out of his way in the other direction to avoid the wooden mill bridge. I imagine them constantly circling in opposing orbits with the Abby & Brad bridge at the center.

I considered the scenery. “So I drive this way and think about my grandmother.”

Vicky considered the scenery. “It is a pretty road.”
===