I was overdue for one. My noggin gets a whack at least three times a week. It helps release the pent-up steam from my frying brain cells when I get them working on overdrive.
The head slap moment in question occurred on Sunday. I was editing my finished ms, The Stone Man, when I suddenly stopped.
Something wasn’t right.
I knew it wasn’t right from the moment I wrote the first paragraph. A problem eluded me for all 25 chapters. It kept me awake at night while I chewed on my fingernails. The flow, the overall tone of the story, was missing something. It didn’t feel . . .
. . . rural enough.
Rural. Country. Hick. My characters (except three of them) lived on the outskirts of the town. They lived in an area where the whiff of fresh cow manure signaled the sowing season. They lived in a place where if the sound of a gunshot went off, they would pass gas and salute the air with their beer cans while saying, “Tag, you’re it!” They were pure country.
In the story, they talked pure country only in the dialogue. The rest of the descriptive paragraphs were basic Eastside Manhattan. And that’s bad, especially since I don’t even know what Eastside Manhattan people talk like.
Pop! Yes, I lifted my palm and dinged the old noggin. Then I sat back, wondering, “How am I going to fix this?”
I thought about it until 2:00 in the afternoon. My face screwed up into, well, faces trying to get my hick down. Heck, my last name is HICKman. This should be easy for me.
Why wasn’t it easy for me?
I realized why. For my entire life, I strove NOT to be country - a hard endeavor when a person grows up there. I had 18 years of wallowing with the pigs, playing hide-n-seek between the corn stalks, and just sitting in the grassy field chewing on a brown straw stalk, to get rid of in my efforts for people to not look down upon my intelligence just because I grew up “redneck.”
I shoved that person way down deep into my subconsciousness. Then I buried the key in the cornfield.
I knew I had to get my inner “hick” down. Only then could I give my story the right voice. I closed my eyes, prepared my mind with the classic meditation chant, “Ooooommmm . . . Yee-haw” and began body-slamming the locked door inside my mind. In moments, the wood splintered and the memories returned.
- the oinks of pigs -
- the rustle of corn leaves brushing against my bare arms and the hidden giggles rising among the shadowed rows -
- the feel of soft moss under my rump, as I leaned back enjoying the sweet taste in my mouth as I watched the straw’s seedpod bounce with every gnashing of my teeth -
Yep, I’d felt all them memories blowing inside. They’d filled me up right, making me enjoy those times - those simple times of running barefoot up on those plowed fields, dark mounds rolled over like giant long Tootsie rolls that my lips smacked on when hopping from one dirt pile to another.
How’d I forget such a thing like that? Or those other times when I’d swung in the hanging tire in the barn, hearing them squeak-squawks of the beam making a fuss at my play. “Quiet beam!”
Mighty fine times with this and when I’d chase those chickens, round and round, my bare feet doing those pitter-patters on the ground so dry that ants hid in the cracks sensing the earthquakes as my pounding toes neared.
Why, I sure as felt everything coming on back, knowing I’d got myself some work to do on editing that manuscript. How long this mood of mine gonna last, well, we play it by ear. Give fair warning though. If you as go seeing my comment not looking like what I’d normally write, you sure do know the reasons why now!