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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.


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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

entry arrow9:23 PM | How a Story Begins

I always begin by scrambling around in the dark -- no image or situation to spur me on like most writers, only a fleeting idea of a ... something. It's not even a feeling. More like a ringing in my head that begs to get out. Most of the time, I fall in love with a prospective title and I go with that. I don't map out things like some writers do: every paragraph a piece of the puzzle tacked on some grand design. Shall I call my method "instinctive" then? I'm not sure. If instinct is chaos, so be it. I'm only sure that I start out with a sentence, and prepare myself for any surprise -- a character and a situation suddenly emerging from the blot of a beginning. Yesterday, for example, I somehow started with a character on a hospital bed, making wise cracks. Why a hospital bed? Why wisecracks? I have no idea. Sometimes, the main character insists it is a "he." And shows me his face: a youngish man always on the verge of despair, and resurrection. But the way that goes, the story -- because it is the chronicle of a man just like me -- invites shades of the autobiographical, and so I tell my fingers pounding on the keyboard, to stop. I should think over how the story must go again, I tell myself. I don't ever want shades of myself in my stories again, like in the early days. And sometimes, the character is a she. Some nights, after I settle into my chair and turn my desktop on, she is a young girl with only a pretense for innocence; and some nights she is an older woman whose secrets are the scarlet glue that holds the narrative together. Tonight, she insists she is a young woman who has a very young daughter too wise for her years, and a cantakerous mother who thinks she is Bette Davis during the best of days. But how "Old Movies," I tell myself. Must the writer be condemned to writing only one story over and over again? Another similar story where I go on a joyride of restraint and minimalism, and somehow end up writing about mothers scrambling with the frayed edges of their lives? The other month, I had an older man jog through the cold morning of Valencia town, only to drop dead on top of his wife's newly-planted begonias. The whole estranged family dines together on the last night of his wake, perhaps too eager to move on with the rest of their lives. And all the widow can think about, is this strange concern: "I must change the pattern of my wallpaper." Also the other month, I had a beautiful boy stabbed with an ice pick while out drinking beer. Also the other month, I had a little boy draw a strange map of the world, grow up into a young man in the span of one night, and travel back in time to learn the sound of his real name. That story I finished. It ran to 16 pages, single-spaced, 10-points Book Antiqua. I have no idea why. Right now, in the dull haze of the coffee I've just drunk -- black, with little sugar -- I don't know where to go with this new story about wise-cracking characters on hospital beds. I don't know where these characters will take me. I don't know if I can even finish this story. All I know is that I want to purge postmodernism from my system. I want to go back to the elemental hold of a discernable plot, whatever that means. Back to the keyboard pounding then...

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