Monday, September 9, 2013

Prompt: Stream of consciousness, Red, cephalopod camouflage

I learned about stream of consciousness writing back in high school, when we studied James Joyce. I loved the concept and practiced it quite a lot. Years later, it resurfaced in a meditative journaling workshop, and not only did I still enjoy it, but I pulled up a memory that later was incorporated as a key scene into my novel-in-progress. Then I did NaNoWriMo and ran into a wall near the end of the month. I used SOC to work through all my negative self talk, then broke through into more story that got me through the NaNoWriMo challenge. Since then, I’ve done the same with my original novel, opening up the middle of the story. In other words, it works for me.

If you’re not familiar with SOC, the idea is to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and keep writing without stopping, even if you’re literally writing “I don’t know what to write.” The practice seems to help our mind work through some surface chatter and finally focus. I invite you to give it a try, and just for kicks, I’m going to do a small session here, using the color red as my original prompt, and cephalopod camouflage thanks to a video that’s making the rounds on Facebook. So, without further ado, here we go. Perhaps more than you want to know about the inner working of my mind! Let’s see if there’s a diamond in the rough, or at least a kernel of good material in here somewhere…

Okay, red red red blood, sunset, fire, but I don’t know where to go with that. And my cat is meowing for the dog to come play – very distracting! Cephalopod camouflage, which I kind of love saying and even writing – it has both a great sound and lovely letters. The video, if you haven’t seen it, shows how thoroughly an octopus can hide itself against its background. Amazingly, they are color blind! And it’s special cells on their skin that work in tandem to generate the color differences, but they also have an amazing ability to mimic what do you call it? Um…..textures, like a rock or a waving lettuce-edged anemone.

So I am thinking of a story about nanotechnology and camouflage. An agent maybe has nanites injected into their skin? I just had a conversation about how to hide from advanced surveillance technology. Even if you could “disappear”, what about infrared? Heat? Motion? DNA signatures? So I think the trick would be that even super strong surveillance on a major scale, like city or planet-wide, would rely on sampling rather than 100% coverage, even with mostly-computer observation. So how could you hide? Knowing the algorithms? Ah, there’s a possibility. I need a counterpart to continue this line of inquiry though…or tell me why it won’t work ;)

So what about a camouflaged individual in a more natural setting? An observer? A remnant hiding out? Bigfoot, but more in the middle of things. Another planet, perhaps? I am kind of grooving on a last-of-its-kind idea. Lonely, perhaps, but not knowing how to interact, only to hide in plain sight. Would it be animal, humanoid, or completely different? Hiding in a city environment – out in the open, moving around at night, blending into the shadows. Does it know language? Read papers? Watch TVs in window displays? Where does it live?

Does anyone know about it? Help it? Maybe there are more than one. Maybe it’s a group “hiding” as the disenfranchised, the homeless? I’m remembering how the Ben & Jerry’s staff at Kenmore Square would sort of take care of a crazy lady who came into the shop. They would feed her and let her stay as long as she was quiet and didn’t disrupt the other patrons. If her conversations got too animated, one of them would go over and calm her and remind her to be quiet.

I was equally impressed with a sub shop in Moore Square in Raleigh, where I saw a homeless man come into the doorway and one of the staff motioned him to take a seat. He waited without bothering the other patrons, and they brought him a sandwich.

I think there’s a story there about observing, trading communications, hiding in plain sight, because we as society tend to “skip over” what we don’t want to see, what makes us uncomfortable, or we don’t understand. Maybe anthropologists, well, another species observing humans would be something else…

Of course, it’s been done. Now I feel like watching Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in the marvelous 1st Men in Black! But, I do wonder, can I do one better? Perhaps…

Evaluation: So, nothing really happened with the color prompt. I think the camouflage was too much on my mind. I got a couple of story ideas out of this one, perhaps something to do w/camouflage nanotechnology, and perhaps something about homeless people really being something else. I enjoyed sharing one of my favorite Boston memories of the Ben & Jerry’s crazy lady. I don’t know why I treasure it so.

Your challenge: Give SOC a try and let me know what you think! Does it help you work out a story idea, or a get through a block, or does it just feel silly? If you practice it, it definitely gets easier, and it sure can help get the words flowing!

Dogs in house
Pop mix
Time writing:
~30 minutes
September word count:

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