Lost in Stories

5 June 2002

When I was talking about domestic stuff yesterday, I forgot about the outside. I have very specific things I want in a garden -- two very specific things in fact. 1) Tomatoes. 2) Someone else.

Yep. Mostly what I want in a garden is not me. If I need to handle gardening, I'll do it, but I would really prefer not to. My mom is convinced that this will change. She claims that when she was my age (she's been saying this since I was 12), she wasn't interested in gardening, either. My grandma says this is just plain not true, and we're getting ever closer to the time when I can judge for myself: my mom had me when she was 24. I'm going to be 24 in July. I don't have immediate gardening memories, but it's only another couple of years until I could remember what Mom was doing with the garden when I was her age.

Mom is convinced that by that time, I'll be interested in gardening. We'll see.

I realized that a few days ago, that I'm approaching the age Mom was when she had me. She'll be less than twice my age for the rest of my life, after July. When it came to getting married, it was kind of an anti-race: everyone wanted me to get married later than my mom had, including me but especially my mom. Now when it comes to having babies, it's not a race, really...I don't feel I have to start now because Mom did...it's just a little bit of the jealousy I feel when I see women with little ones now. Mom got to have a baby when she was 24. Not a good reason to have one. But maybe a reason to pout a little tiny bit, every once in awhile when no one is looking.

I need two names for corporations, a large hardware manufacturer and a major media conglomerate. In the rough draft of the story, I stuck in "Media Conglomerates" instead of the name of the fake media conglomerate. I forgot to tell my writing group members that this was a placeholder, and a few of them, in some quiet alarm, told me to ditch the name. Well, yes. The question is, replaced with what? The names they're paying people to come up with these days are so silly that it's hard for me to think my readers wouldn't roll their eyes just as much as they did at Media Conglomerates. Accenture? Come on. Avaya? Oh, please. Avaya particularly annoys me, because it used to be Bell, and that made sense: Bell Labs. There you go. Who founded it? Bell. What is it? Labs. All right then. But then it went to Lucent Technologies and then to Avaya. From bad to worse. I hate naming companies, and I only wish I could see a swing back the other direction in naming practices.

The middle companies in the media conglomerates have cute little artsy names, some of which actually make sense for what they're doing. But the conglomerates themselves...well, there's "AOL/Time Warner." Which separately makes sense. Each of them was once named logically for the product or the founder. But stuck together, they just kind of run along nonsensically. Bah-duh-dah-duh-dah-duh. Or Sony Viacomm, Bah-duh-dah-duh-dah. Looks like I have the meter of it, anyway....

Sarah asked me, not so long ago, if I ever get lost in my own stories the way she gets lost in other people's. (And I do, too.) And I do, but not consistently at the same parts. When I first conceive of a story or of a scene within a story, there's a certain degree of "lost" I can get in it, with new worlds especially, but also with unexpected developments in old worlds. It's the feeling of "oh, wow" that feels entirely independent of me. But the kind of lost I can get in the actual writing is a different kind, a different feeling entirely. It's less dreamy than when I get lost in someone else's book. More focused. When I get lost in someone else's story, or in the conception of mine, I feel less physically present. When I get lost in actually writing a story, I feel more physically present, rooted and intense. Laser-brained.

When I'm in the latter state and I need a name for a company, I type in "Media Conglomerates" or some other combination of words unlikely to appear in the story, and move on. Because the name of the Media Conglomerates is at best a parlor trick, in the context of the rest of the story. At best, if I pick something obscure and clever, a few people who know the reference will smile to themselves at how clever I am. On the other hand, the best two-word description for the lawyer character may make the story much better. So when I'm in laser-state, I focus on the one and use a placeholder for the other, because the rest of the story is too important to get bogged down in the details.

I find it much easier to name people what they're actually called. The lawyer above, Seth, could not be anything but Seth. That's his name. So I could just type it down, easily, and move on. And the main character of "Small Talk" is called by both first and last names, depending on who's doing the talking, so it was fairly easy to name him Lawrence Chee, because, well, that's his name, and both parts of it are important. But most of the main characters of the Not The Moose Book are called by their first names throughout. Coming up with Sohvi was easy. Nobody calls her "Miss _____," so coming up with her last name, Vääräniemi, was much harder. Companies are like that. Nobody goes around saying, "Are you going to take BART or your General Motors product to your meeting on Sunday?" Brands get mentioned occasionally, but corporate parent companies not so much unless you're saying "I work for X." Or "Y is suing over this." Which -- unfortunately -- I am.

Anyway...well, the newspaper lied yesterday. It said it would be 74 in Oakland, so I wore jeans. David and I walked around by Lake Merritt. If it was 74, then I am the Princess Anastasia. I came home and put on shorts. Going to do so again today, once I'm cleaned up. I finished a draft of "The Children's Village," and I was lost in it in a bad way, permanently unsure about what I had just read in the current draft and what I had put in a previous draft, so I thought, well, enough, and let the writing group deal with it for Sunday. Today I'll do more work on "Fair Use," and I'm not sure what else. Grocery shopping, of course, and I already mended the afghan. I have a couple of queries to write, and I'm trying to do more freewrites. I've been making some people worry, what with having dreams in which I'm not doing anything but working, so I'm once again making a concerted effort to relax, and this time that effort involves freewrites. We'll see if it works. In the meantime, I'll just be working and doing errands around here, and waiting for our DSL line to come back on. Sigh.

6:00. The chili is ready, and I'm waiting for Mark to get home. Timprov is still sleeping. We are now the proud possessors of nearly half of the produce section of our local grocery, including -- be still my heart -- plumicots. Oh. I am a major plumicot fan. I had never had one before today, but they're tasty tart little units. Definitely worth trying. The label at the store said plumicot, but the little stickers say pluot. I like "plumicot" better, since "pluot" looks like it ought to be "plu-oh," with a French accent, but pronouncing apricot the French way would seem really pretentious. (Seem?!)

I have talked to the DSL people. The light still goes blink blink blink. They asked me whether we had a dog. They asked me whether we had satellite TV. They asked me to take the box into a back bedroom, sans computer, to see if it would connect there. They asked me to do everything short of the Macarena, and still the DSL does not work. So: tomorrow there is supposed to be a service person here in the morning. We shall see.

I've been reading Alfred Bester's Golem100, which has just not appealed, and Kate Wilhelm's No Defense, which I've just started. And I've almost finished "Trail's End" (out of the blue) and have worked on "Fair Use." And cleaned the kitchen and various and sundry other stuff which I will discuss later.

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