Saturday, August 26, 2006

what i learned from Super Mario Bros.

no, you aren't going crazy. I'm bumping this back to the top of the blog since people seemed to enjoy it.

I'll put something in the story that seems completely insignificant, then I'll have a plot problem and find that the insignificant thing isn't insignificant at all. in a daydream state I let my mind wander around in the scene. I'm not trying to figure anything out; I'm just enjoying it in the way you'd enjoy a daydream. And I'll often spot something that has been there all along, planted by me three months earlier.
I thank myself, pick up that little surprise, and run. Secret worlds, secret treasures, secret levels, hidden pathways.

Thank you, Mario!

Super Mario Bros.


Editors tend to look outside the story for a solution to a problem, and that can upset the balance and theme. I think you can very often look inside the story because the exact thing you need might already be there. an editor probably won't spot these solutions because they didn't come from her subconscious.

21 comments:

angie said...

OMG, that is so funny! And weirdly familiar. I love Super Mario & confess to having spent stupid amounts of time collecting gold coins and stars & mushrooms - and yes, I occasionally get great ideas while playing. There's something about that little mustachioed plumber dude and that simplistic arcade music that makes me smile every time.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Good point about finding solutions within the story. I think sometimes, an editor need say no more than, 'this isn't working and here's why' and let the author find their own solution. Then it's collaboration instead of an argument.

Jeff said...

Stephen King has said, " I believe stories are found things, like fossils in the ground. Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world, and it's the writers job to extract as much of the fossil as possible."
I think sometimes we discover a piece of the fossil, but can't see how it fits in the whole, somewhat like a puzzle.
It's only later when we have other pieces of the fossil together that we see how it fits, and was actually an intergral part of the story all along.

I like the Super Mario Bros. Video. :)

jason evans said...

Dreams within dreams.

Only another writer could truly understand and trust what you're saying.

anne frasier said...

angie, i used to play it when my kids were at school. :D

definitely a happy game.

sandra, you really hit it. i know for me it's best if they point out the problem without offering a solution. the solution often plants something in my head that shouldn't be there. once it's there, even if you try to disregard it, it keeps coming back.

anne frasier said...

jeff, i completely agree with that. i do think stories come pretty much complete -- we just can't see the whole thing. which is why outside ideas can be jarring.

a whole new dig site. :D

jason, thanks. :) and you have to trust yourself and the subconscious mind. but i tend to forget that with every book.

Bill Cameron said...

I had a Super Mario revelation this past weekend. It came at a very weird moment. I was chatting with my wife's grandmother, who is a delightful woman in her 90s, an utter charmer. She was talking about how excited she is about reading my book, and all the while I was thinking, "Oh, no. How can I possibly face this sweet little old lady after she reads chapter six? And if she gets to chapter twenty-two . . . oh lord." So I started to get this faraway feeling, and started wondering if I could manage some kind of misdirection, but that wasn't going anywhere, so my brain drifted further afield until I was wandering around chapter two in my current WIP. I didn't even know how I'd gotten there. And then I noticed the faint scent of smoke, which had been there for eight months. And I realized it was the key to a huge problem I've been trying to solve. I'd thought it was just texture in the scene, but now I know better.

I still don't know what to do about my wife's grandma though.

anne said...

i say from now on we call these things super mario. "yeah, i had a super mario today. i love when that happens."

about grandma. i've been there. mentally i used a razor blade to delicately remove the sick pages, but i've never actually tried it.

Daniel Hatadi said...

Classic! I laughed AND I learned. Can't do better than that.

jason evans said...

OMG, I finally saw the video last night. I love the deep, soul-searching scenes in the mirror. Not bad acting! Also, the mugging scene is classic. :D

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Truer words were never spoken. When I was near the ending of KISS HER GOODBYE, I knew I needed something special to bring it all together and make it make sense in an emotional way.

I ran a hundred different ideas through my head but none of them worked. Then it suddenly came from -- from a seed that had been planted in the story three hundred pages before. I was able to make the ending much more emotionally powerful than it had been. In fact, as I wrote, I (don't tell anyone) began to cry.

It's kind of weird when you discover you've already laid the groundwork. It seems that looking inside the story -- as you say -- is the best way to find what you need.

anne frasier said...

daniel, i didn't even know if this post made sense, but i thought i'd risk it. :D

jason, i loved the mugging scene too. :D i think that really touches on the charm and silliness of the actual game.

rob, it's wonderful when that happens -- and you remain true to the story. it makes me wonder how many things we subconsciously file away in our daily lives that we never consciously recognize. i guess that's where the fascination comes from for me. oh, and i won't mention the crybaby thing. ;)

Anne McAllister said...

OMG, you mean those moments come from Super Mario? How could I know that when I never played it? I thought they came from never throwing away anything in my office. Same principal in a book. If I don't know why something's there, I just leave it for now. I had one of those moments on the weekend when I finally figured out the rest of my book. And it's way more organic to who the people are than I had ever thought. And the trigger was something entirely different. I was reading someone else's book -- and her characters were actually talking to each other, whereas mine always seem to have their lips closed with superglue -- and so I thought, what if they actually confronted the problem and each other. And so I let them (no, I forced them) and amazingly enough, once I kicked them both hard enough, they not only talked, but I discovered that an early children experience of one of them (yes, already in the book, thank you, Super Mario) was the reason for the next important plot point (you didn't know I had plots, did you, Anne?) and wow, now it all works! Of course it only took months to get here.

anne frasier said...

(yes, already in the book, thank you, Super Mario)

anne, LOL!!

i do the same thing as far as leaving things in the story for now. anything i think of goes in, even if i don't know why it's there or what it means. i can always take it out later.

then there's the whole finding the heart of a scene where you have the surface stuff, but you really need to figure out what's going on underneath. but that's probably another post!

Kel said...

So true. Sometimes I find small elements in the story then discover if I expanded here it becomes something stronger to the entire story.

Nienke said...

I remember when I analyzed book for English class way back when. I always wondered how the heck authors could intertwine so much information that all worked together like an ecosystem.
I've learned since then that many of the connections in a story come through from the subconscious. Or maybe it's the power of the muse. In any case, it's fascinating, isn't it?

anne frasier said...

kel, i love when that happens.

nienke, it makes a person realize how many layers there are to what we are processing. or aren't processing.

mai wen said...

Oh, I'm glad you bumped this up on your blog. I'd read it the last time you posted it, but right now I've been struggling with making an ending work for a short story I'm working on and reading this post made me remember something I'd included at the beginning of the story that I wasn't really sure if I'd keep it in because it didn't seem connected to anything else in the story... well now I'm thinking of connecting it to the ending... oh, I'm excited to go home and work it out. Blast working a full time job, I'm stuck here until 5pm, hope my inspiration and motivation keeps until then!

anne frasier said...

mai, jot it down and it will all come back when you are ready! or at least that seems to be the case for me. but i have to jot it down or i will sometimes lose it completely. or if i don't have paper around i call my home and leave a message on the answering machine. i love doing that just because it's so weird.

mai wen said...

ohhh, calling home and leaving yourself a message is a GREAT idea, and creepy fun! That'll be great when I have ideas on my drive home from work, which I do often. I've tried jotting it down with my right hand while driving with my left, but that has turned out to be quite dangerous. Calling home (especially with my hands-free headset) is the perfect solution!!

Thanks so much for that idea, I'm really excited about it, and kicking myself for never having thought of it before. I have definitely lost some great ideas due to getting them while driving- or at least I thought so at the time, since I can't remember them I can't confirm that they were great, but I'd like to think so! :)

anne frasier said...

mai, i'm glad you found that useful!!! i think driving is a great time for ideas, so hopefully that will work for you.

i don't drive much, so i tend to get ideas when i'm walking. i do feel kind of weird if i'm speaking dialogue into my cell and meet somebody on the sidewalk because i usually put narrative in there too. i don't use the cell frequently, but it has come in handy several times. because it seems like those ideas that come when your brain is almost in that dream/trance thing --those ideas flit away pretty quickly.