A few months ago I read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. The book’s premise is that a deadly flu sweeps the world, killing most of the population. The few people who survive must adapt to a new world without modern essentials like electricity, refrigeration, gasoline, antibiotics, computers, and so on. The book follows different characters as they react to a world they never expected to live in, and their stories intertwine in beautiful ways.
I find with a really good book like Station Eleven the scenes, characters, and ideas rattle around in my head long after I’ve finished it. I found myself thinking about what I would miss if I lived in the world of the book. Obviously I would miss my computer, my car, the Internet, modern medicine, etc. But what about the non-obvious, non-essential stuff of 21st century civilization? Here’s my list of unnecessary, trivial things that I would miss in the event of a global flu-pocalypse:
- Brightly-colored drinks with fruit and decorations
- Cupcakes with icing
- Glitter glue pens
- Big glossy magazines with aspirational content, like Martha Stewart Living
- Swedish fish candy
- Home improvement television shows
- Moist towelettes
- Nail polish
- Coloring books
- Fancy needlepoint pillow kits
- Gifs of cats
- Gift wrap
- The Hamilton soundtrack
- My Dr. Who Pinterest board
What random things would you miss at the end of the world?
Photo Fancy drinks by Sarah via flickr and licensed under CC 2.0
I finished the first draft of my novel back in May and now I’m working on revising it. I’ve been reading Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl B. Klein. Klein is an editor with many books to her credit, including the United States editions of the Harry Potter series and Millicent Min: Girl Genius by Lisa Yee (as well as the other books in the Millicent Min trilogy). One of the things Klein discusses in her book is that writer needs to understand who the protagonist is– what she loves, hates, wants, needs, and fears.
I tried doing some free writing on these topics, but felt like I still wasn’t really connecting with my character. Then I remembered mind mapping. I grabbed my journal and started with the character’s name in the middle of the page. Then I started writing things that I know about her– including the names of family and friends, as well as what she loves and hates. You can see the current map in the picture above. I’m still working on it– at a minimum I want to add needs and fears– but I feel like I’m getting a better idea of who she is and how she changes by the end of the book.
You’ll notice the map is kind of messy– not like some of the pretty mind map examples you can find online. I’m putting something messy out on purpose because while I like to look at pretty examples, I don’t think real idea generation looks like that, at least not when I do it. I find ideas don’t leap from my mind fully formatted with correct punctuation and spelling. The more I let go of the need to be tidy, the more I can generate ideas that make my writing interesting and real.
Lately I have found myself thinking about poetry and fiction, and why they are different, and how that difference affects the writing process. Some people think the difference is rhyme, or figurative language, or line length. In this view, poetry has these devices, and fiction does not. As for me, I think the difference is conflict.