David has a fantastic way of making you laugh out loud as he teaches the craft of storytelling. This post is classic David. Enjoy!
I despise other people’s hands in my mouth.
Yet I’ve permitted countless fingers to pry open my jaws over the years. I’ve even allowed them to wield sharp objects beside my tongue. This oral horror continues as mirrors, strings and chemicals appear shortly thereafter.
What’s crazy is that during these approved intrusions, I’m supposed to help carry a conversation. The person grinding utensils against my teeth often asks, “How are you doing?” That’s the moment my shoulders constrict and my mind retreats to its safe place.
Of course, I’m describing a typical session with my dentist. I missed my last appointment. They’ve called three times to reschedule but I’m in no rush to gargle my own blood again.
CHARACTERS MUST LIVE BEYOND THE PAGE
I hate going to the dentist, and this contempt has prompted me to appoint every dentist with a criminal mind.
But can you really blame me? Haven’t you ever laid there flat on your back, baked under their bright lights, and wondered what drove that masked mortal to pursue a career in professional mouth probing?
All it takes is a quick online search to solidify their disturbing intentions, too. These quotes were gathered from forums after googling, “Why did you become a dentist?”
- “I like carving, sculpting, etc.”
- “I want to save the world one tooth at a time.”
- “I enjoy tinkering with things.”
- “Dentistry is like arts and crafts for adults.”
- “Money money money money”
If those words don’t read like the motives of a villain, I don’t know what does.
EDITING THE STORY OF YOUR LIFE
Whether you’re a storyteller or simply love to get inside criminal minds, we’re all constantly using our imaginations to position people as heroes, villains and more. This activity helps us develop entertaining characters on the page, and also flexes our creative muscles (along with transforming the bland everyday into something enjoyable).
So instead of looking at my own issues with teeth cleaning, I opt to create monsters with fang fetishes. Yep, I basically edit the story of my life and rewrite it to read like fiction.
For instance, the cashier at my local grocery store who rarely smiles also loves to lick the Fuji Apples when no one’s looking. My waiter with the nose ring from last night couldn’t wait to get off work and treat their spouse to laser tag using my credit card number. The first-degree acquaintance in Costco was thankful I hid behind a palette of Kleenex to avoid a stop and chat engagement.
It’s amazing what’s happening all around when you observe beyond the obvious.
I recommend everyone gives this approach a shot. Again, it doesn’t matter if you’re a storyteller or reader because we’re all equipped with powerful imaginations.
In fact, I bet you’ve wondered the same thing I have about Sue and this website. Wouldn’t crime writing about serial killers be the perfect cover for an actual serial killer? At least her hard drive search results would have a reasonable alibi come court time.
PRACTICE CREATING YOUR OWN WORLD
Here’s just a few sample scenarios and exercises to jumpstart your own fictive universe:
- Next time you’re pumping gas: Watch the person closest to you. Ask yourself where they’re coming from? Is Marvin from Pulp Fiction in the trunk? Where are they going? Does the body farm await their arrival?
- Next time your dentist patrols your mouthpiece: Ask yourself what it is they love so much about saliva? Or imagine asking them to lay down so you can play doctor inside their mouth. Or visualize an empowering conversation that ends with you being asked to find a new orthodontist.
- Next time your boss says something twisted: Look inside your boss’s mind and recognize he/she is daring you to quit. Then picture how you could use your very particular set of skills to better your life and conquer your bad boss a la Taken style. Hey, sometimes tangent thoughts can become a tangible life…
The point is to use your fictive mind to thrive in the real world. This mental workout should help your writing if you’re a storyteller. Better yet, it should help everyone balance the ordinary with the bizarre and breed monsters among men.
Going back to monsters, I’ve got a feeling my dentist thinks I’m one. You see, I listen to music during my teeth cleanings. It’s a great defense against conversation, keeps me caught up on podcasts, and drowns out any potential grinding sounds.
It’s just that I’ve never seen anyone else using headphones. I’m sure there are others but I’m worried. Because I just started imagining what happened to them…
David Villalva helps novelists craft stories that connect with readers. His free visual guides, The Storytelling Blueprint and The Scene Building Blueprint, illustrate the plot and scene structures used in novels and screenplays.
Get them free at DavidVillalva.com