Tuesday, April 26, 2011

This is how my brain works

Due to desperation to publish something popular demand, a peek inside my creative process:

I took a walk last Tuesday.  Y'all know my fascination with local cemeteries--which is unwavering.  In the same general area as all the city cemeteries and other old graveyards are two Jewish cemeteries.  I have a fascination with these.  They are a stark contrast to the neighboring cemeteries, both Christian and nonsectarian--they truly do look like parks, with large hedges, immaculate paths, and essentially none of the problems that plague the others.  No sunken headstones.  No vandalism.  No trash that I've seen.  They are quite actively maintained, which is obviously a key difference.

I haven't been into either of them.  It seems that the only days I try to go there (today included) they are closed.  I actually didn't expect them to be open last week; Passover had started the night before and I knew no Torah-observant Jew would be traveling to them.  (They are likewise always closed tight on the Sabbath.)  But I needed the exercise, and the landlord was supposed to be over spraying noxious chemicals and laying out poison, so I wanted to get the baby out of the house.  Off I went.

I cut through my favorite city cemetery, Number 3.  This cemetery is quite large, and filled with graves.  It's the one mentioned briefly in this post, at the very end.

So it's midday, and I'm walking along in the cemetery pushing my baby in her stroller and movement catches my eye.  To explain this, here's a satellite photo of the cemetery:
 I was headed off toward Palmetto, which is the street on the right.  I was maybe halfway down the center horizontal path, between the two vertical ones on that side, and saw movement on the path that's at the top of the photo.

It was a dog.  A very large, very black dog, trotting down the other path, toward Monumental.  Being who I am, and where I was, my immediate thought was Hell Hound.  Of course, in reality it was a semi-feral abandoned black lab, most likely (and it was there again today, by the way).  But Hell Hound sounded more fun.  So immediately I thought of the protagonist of the novel I'm back to trying to get off the ground and started wondering how to use a Hell Hound in a story with her.

I was still mulling this over--would the Hell Hound be an adversary?  Or merely an informant?  Who else might be living in a cemetery?--when I hit Palmetto and started up it toward the Jewish cemeteries.  And then it hit me:

Why the hell does everybody think cemeteries are haunted?  Don't ghosts stick to places they know?  Just like that, I had an opening line: "Everyone thinks cemeteries are haunted.  They're not.  Think about it.  Where would you want to spend the afterlife--the neighborhood where you lived, or a graveyard with no company but a bunch of tombstones?"

And I built it up a tiny bit from there.  By the time Erik picked us up, I had a rough opening paragraph (put here from memory, as the notebook I jotted it down in is in the truck still):

Everyone thinks cemeteries are haunted.  They're not.  Think about it.  Where would you want to spend the afterlife--the neighborhood where you lived, or a graveyard with no company but a bunch of tombstones?  Ghosts are only found in cemeteries for three days after the death, if they're buried fast enough.  And that's only if they've already decided to stick around, which most folks don't.  But murder victims usually do, which was why Carl and I were standing in the Jewish cemetery at noon on a Tuesday.

Oh, vampires don't live in cemeteries either.  They're as fond of the creature comforts as you may have heard.  If you ever meet a vampire who lives in a cemetery, expect to pay for all your dates.

Obviously, that's rough as hell.  But you can see where the kernel of a story has started to form.  I will need to reword that opening sentence--I don't like the "everybody thinks" part, and actually I wound up writing it down differently, but I don't recall offhand how I changed it.  The second paragraph is a nub that amused me and will be cut because it won't actually have a thing to do with the finished project.  But I know what I have--a murdered Jew, and a Hell Hound who will act as some sort of linchpin for the plot.  Probably not as a villain--too close to the bad guy in the novel.  But it's a start.


Mattexian said...

Looks like a good start, similar to how Married With Zombies begins, just light enough to draw you in without overburdening you with details.

Eric could probably tell you, almost all the cemetaries in Beaumont are along Pine St, the old river road between the old ferry landing and downtown. As such, they're far enough out of the way that one doesn't casually drive by them unless you live nearby (which I kinda used to, had to wait for funerals to pass by lots of times when I was leaving the house).

AlanDP said...

I would have thought the dog was a grim.

As for vampires, here's my take (still in progress):