Today I am reading a book by Chuck Palahniuk, titled, “Damned.” I have tried to read his other books (Fight Club and Choke, amongst his more well known), but I always had a problem following his mind. Now that I am on the otherside of the pages,I am realizing that it’s not my job to get inside the mind of the writer, but his/her job to get into mine. So in this new Palahniuk book I am trying to stay focused, but there are still some parts where I peek at the back inside cover to see his picture and think to myself, “what were you smoking, Dude?”
Albeit a very interesting book about a self-proclaimed, “fat-girl” who overdoses on marijuana and winds up in hell, he does have some interesting opinons on the concept, development, and over all design of hell. To this, I say, “Kudos, Mr. Palahniuk, for making me laugh, feel vomitus, and blush all in the same chapter.” You may ask what this has to do with my blog title, “An Unfamilar Place” This is because in his book he talks about many far off and exotic destinations that only the daughter of a movie-star billionaire would know about. I’m left to wonder if Chuck has been to these places, name dropping, or if they were spots on a map he threw a dart at. Being that he’s sold over 5 million books, I would assume he has visited these places at least once…but that is a wild assumption without any basis.
I wrote in a previous blog that I could only write about places i’ve been, things i’ve done, senses i’ve experienced. This has created quite a conundrum in my new book as the charcter, Evan, is deaf. I tried working through this last night and discovered something fascinating that I have taken for granted for years, as most people probably have: Did you know you can hear your own voice in your head? I mean, we have thoughts, but imagine if you will (or try) that you can not speak. You have no use of your mouth to produce words. Do you still hear those words in your in head? How did you know what th words wwere supposed to sound like? Answer this, without speaking out loud: What is your theory on evolution? Okay, do you hear the sound of your own voice in your head? Myself, I found it fascinating, because all though I have heard it before, I have taken it for granted.
What’s the point? The point is this. As a writer I have to get into the heads of my character so they can get into your head and you can feel their emotions. Ride the rollercoaster with them. Be someone else with every documented word. Escape. So my job in the new book is to make you, the reader, connect with a young deaf girl who is caught up in a triangle custody battle between a ditzy, emotionally lazy mother; an uncaring, loafer father; and a man who loves her as his own child. Being caught up in that is hard enough, but I’m left to write every tangible sense of a girl who hasn’t ever heard a sound. You look at a door and say, “it’s a door.” In spanish, “la puerta.” In german, “die Tur.” But how do you explain sound to someone who can’t hear it? It’s like explaining the color teal to a blind person.
I am taking on a task similar to writing about a place I have not been. I can not write about Harlem since I’ve never been there. I can stare at pictures all day, but until I have been there I could not give you every sense of the place: taste, smell, sight, sound, touch. Think those don’t all play into the factor? Well, I’ve lived in beautiul California my entire life, and when people come to visit they all want to go to Hollywood. I try and detour them, but usually can’t because they already have a preconceived idea. Many people outisde of Los Angeles think of it as star central, full of glitz and shimmering sparkles, streetsof gold and stars. Not so. Here are the senses of hollywood: As I walked into the city of stars I was immediatley met by the pungent, stale scent of fresh and stagnant urine. It was thick, making me feel dirty under its weight, which lingered on the humid air, and sank into my skin. I saw a homeless man sitting beside a trash can, chasing away rats and other pestulence, while the din sound of helicopters and airplanes consumed the dingy skyline. The place corrupted every sense, including my ideas of what Hollywood would be.
Now, not to knock Hollywood, but there are better places to visit in California. After reading about all five senses being used to describe it, you should be left with a yucky taste in your mouth. Here’s a free pointer: when writing a creative paper be sure to include,: who, what, when, where, how, but don’t forget: sight, taste, smell, touch, and hearing. It makes it more personable. So my cross to bear is not to write what Evan hears, but to write what she doesn’t hear. In order to do this I will have to heighten my own senses…not so great so far. I am going to take on the task of teaching a deaf girl, English. This is a very unfamilir place.
For those keeping up with my publishing status; I call my editor tomorrow and set up payment, then it will go into a month of editing while I, at the same time, look for work. I am hopeful this will all work out, but please keep following me to see where I end up next year in November, my year anniversary into this uncharted territory. I may be rich and famous, working on a movie deal…or pulling out a loan to publish my next book. Either way, I am proud of my accomplishments and hope you all fulfill your dreams.
tania l ramos