An Order of Plot With a Side of Suspense

It’s almost getting like you can see the grass growing between the cracks of the sidewalk here at the Foundry. It’s been busy with my mother looking at getting out of the nursing home (again), and my daughter getting to go to State competition with the rest of her DI (Destination Imagination) team.

But actually, there’s been a lot of creativity going on here… just not in the area of the three or four novels that need my attention. When all I have time to do is pick up the guitar to strum a couple of times a week, my creative circuitry has apparently decided to recognize that time as an opportunity. As a result, I’ve written four new songs in almost as many weeks, and have started several others. But that’s a topic for another time, or maybe even another blog.

Something else that happened recently is that I got a part in a community theater production of Barefoot in the Park. Regular readers will have sussed that I’m not a real huge Neil Simon fan – every Neil Simon I’ve ever done, I had to have my arm twisted to do it (this time by my wife, who thought I needed a break from months of accumulated stress) – but I must admit that he does write some interesting character parts. So now I’m playing Victor Velasco, the bohemian upstairs neighbor, who is so behind on his rent that he uses the newlywed’s apartment go gain access to his.

The first readthrough was last night. I’ve been cast opposite a woman named Renee, a great actress I’ve worked with before. This will be a switch for us, because in previous shows I’ve either tried to kill her, abduct her, or marry her against her will. She dumped me in the last show we did together. So we were joking about actually getting paired off in this show. After rehearsal she said, “I guess I actually like you this time.” I said, “Next I think we should do Wait Until Dark. That way I can really brutalize you, and you get to kill me.”

Now this made me think on the way home that it would be really neat to write a truly suspenseful play, something that would keep an audience on the edge of their seats like Wait Until Dark does. There are so few of those around. But then I thought… hmmm, novels, songs, and a Christmas play that I’d still like to write. A theatrical thriller would be so far on the back burner that it would actually still be in a can on a shelf in the pantry.

That would be the end of the story right there, but when I went to bed I was still kind of half thinking about a stage thriller. My thought was that I didn’t want to do something like Sleuth or Deathtrap where it was the twist that mattered, but something that was more a nailbiter.

And wouldn’t you know that last night I dreamed a suspense thriller scenario that would be perfect for the stage. A briefcase full of money, a handful of people in real trouble, a cop who may or may not be in on the caper… Of course, being a dream, it degenerated at the end into something really strange – people being murdered, but only pretending they were murdered, and they waited in an unused room where they were supposed to be quiet, but weren’t – so everybody knew the deaths were fake. Or maybe that was symbolizing backstage, where the actors are actually alive after being killed off onstage, and emphasizes the need for being quiet when you’re not out performing.

This is just so strange. I’ve gotten many plot ideas from dreams before. But this time it seemed like it was put in like an order at a restaurant. A notion to write a thriller for the stage, and that very same night I literally dream up a plot.

I don’t know. Maybe sometimes we are crazy.

On the other hand, it does go to show the power of the subconscious. And that we’re all writing, even when we’re not writing. I just didn’t expect to have something like this dumped into my lap so soon. Not when there are so many other things I need to be doing.

Now this leads to the factor of time – precious time – which is the one thing that no writer really has enough of. But that’s a topic for another post too, I suppose.

Meantime, no more thinking about plays right before bed time. Especially when I’m going to have dreams fueled by leftover Boston Market chicken and a can of warm Sierra Mist.

NP: iPod Shuffle – Jandek, “Shadow of Leaves


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