Today we are being joined by Author Christopher Meeks. I would like to thank Christopher for taking the time to talk about his writing process. I hope you all enjoy it. 🙂 (p.s. My roommate would be so happy that cats have found their way into this post!)
HUMOR AND THE WRITING PROCESS—WITH CATS EXTRA
I’m pleased to be here. Michelle suggested that I write, as a guest blog, about my process of writing a comic novel. While I’ve written a lot over the years about my writing process either in commissioned articles or in blogs, I’ve never written about humor. That may be because it’s as mysterious to me as phlogiston was to 17th century scientists who tried to understand fire. Both fire and comedy exist, but HOW is difficult to explain.
When I first started writing short stories, I didn’t know what I was doing, but I did want to be an SYW (serious young writer). The problem was, humor crept in. For example, I happened to spend my junior year abroad in Denmark, which became a depressing time for me when my Danish girlfriend left me (the whole reason I went over.) She moved in with her new boyfriend and set it up so that I would live with her parents. I didn’t think I had a funny nerve left in my body.
I remember writing a story there that took place on the walking street in Copenhagen, the Strøget. My main character ambled down the serpentine way when one religious zealot after another questioned him about heaven or an afterlife. Different religions had different ideas. I wasn’t sure where I was going with this. I just wrote. Then, wham, my protagonist was struck down by a bus and dies, left with a tire imprint on his body. That was the way I was feeling at the time.
That story turn surprised me. What next? My protagonist started speaking, telling the reader what really happens when you die—which is that whatever you think happens, happens. Everyone is right.
Now this seemed a serious story to me, but when others read it, they laughed along the way. With one story after another, this happened. I’d question my readers, then take out whatever was funny, leaving, I thought, the serious good stuff. I learned that the great parts were the things I’d yanked out.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that I see life a bit skewed. Rather than fight it, I just let it happen the way the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain. When I rewrite, I’ll analyze a scene and consider how can I make it better, funnier, more moving. By the way, this is an important notion: I write in scenes. Scenes have turns. A turn is either an action or a realization. A turn, for example, is my character being hit by a bus, which is an action. When he learns something from it, that’s a realization. Your stories need turns.
Another thing about my process: where I used to eschew outlines, I now obsess over them. That’s because I can imagine a scene faster than I can type one out. I can see in my mind if it’s going to work or not. If not, I don’t put it on the outline. I come up with something else better. I can then push things, and “what if” as in “What if in Copenhagen, he goes to Christiana, the hippie town?”
My outlines are not etched in stone but evolve as I write the novel. If something surprising happens in a scene that I didn’t anticipate, I return to the outline to see what will change down the line. I reshape the outline.
Love At Absolute Zero took five years to write. The first draft, as all my first drafts are, was f**king brilliant—until I had someone read it. Okay, certain things needed fixing, and I fixed them. I hired one editor, then another. The first one was particularly great at looking at the lyrical parts of the book, telling me which things worked or where I could use more. The other editor was great at plot, pointing out where my pacing slowed. I ended up throwing out a few chapters, and I added two new characters, Gunnar’s research partners.
After the first editor, a book club volunteered to read it and discuss the book. I loved hearing what was funny to them and what wasn’t. Slow pacing kills humor, which is why I went to a second editor.
My writing process includes cats. That’s because I’m living in a sitcom. My wife Ann has a wonderfully droll sense of humor and loves cats. We must be on some sort of hobo cat website where homeless cats write to others how to follow a certain street to the top of a hill and look for our mailbox. Ann will come in with a kitten saying, “Oh, this poor kitten just popped out from under the Kia. Isn’t it cute?” Okay, so we kept the cat and call it Kia.
We have five cats now, and they all like to gather around me or lay on my desk as I write. Ann says they’re helping me. When a cat walks across the keyboard and wrecks something, I figure that part wasn’t good.
Love At Absolute Zero, by the way, is about a guy who goes to Denmark to be with his girlfriend, and she leaves him. To cleverly mask any autobiography, I made him a physicist specializing in what happens to matter near absolute zero. The atoms become very cold and slow down. The matter also becomes a strange new form, not unlike a young man in despair, connecting to a universe of other lovers in despair until they become one unit, connected and synchronous, even if they don’t know they’re connected. They are a wave.
Some people might not think physicists are funny—or science is funny. Cell phones, though, are science. Next time you’re at an outdoor café, look at how many people are on cell phones. It’s funny.
You need to find your own process to write. If it requires cats, well, get them neutered. Hemingway had cats all around him as he wrote, so, yep, that’s the secret.
Christopher has generously provided one print copy(US/Canada only) or one ecopy (international) of Love at Absolute Zero to a lucky winner.
Giveaway Rules: The rules for entering my contest are really simple. This giveaway will end on September 23rd. (winner will be announced on the 29th)
You Must be a follower (I will be checking) You must be at least 13 years old This Giveaway is INTERNATIONAL Read my Contest Policy for more info Fill out the form below
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Love at Absolute Zero Tour Schedule
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