Mike Monson is co-editor of the crime e-zine All Due Respect, along with Chris Rhatigan, and also the author of his own short fiction, including the collection Criminal Love and Other Stories and the noir novellas What Happens in Reno and The Scent of New Death. His latest work is the novel Tussinland from All Due Respect Books, about a desperate man trapped in a middle-class hell who develops an addiction to DM, or dextromethorphan, the drug found in cough medicines.
In honor of the book's launch, Mike stopped by In Reference to Murder to talk a little about how he goes about writing and creating his fiction:
How I Write/Create Character(s) and Plot
Since I am now gearing up to start a new novella or novel, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I write, how I create.
I know that what I want to do is sit down and create characters on paper and then outline a plot. And, then, write the book I’ve outlined. Wouldn’t that be great? Apparently a lot of fiction writers do just that and it sounds wonderful. Work it all out, step-by-step and plot-point by plot-point, then just write the damn thing. So simple, so easy, so … organized.
I tried to do it with my latest project. I had a basic idea, more of a feeling and an image and some kind of urgency to bring some story impulse to life that I just know will be original and cool.
So I sat down at the computer and started typing character descriptions and a plot summary like a real professional writer. And, guess what? It sucked. So dull, so cliché. If I had to read the book I’d outlined, I’d kill myself.
Apparently, the organized part of me is a boring asshole.
Then, as I’ve done with my previous stories and previous novellas and novels—I went back to a blank document and just started writing until I found the voice, until I found the story, the story that only seems to come along if I just open myself up to it and write with a wildness that doesn’t care about anything other than being heard.
And now, guess what? The story came to life, the narrator came to life, all the other characters came to life. A real story emerged almost immediately: Something real and true and compelling. Something that I’m pretty sure had never been told before. (Not that anyone else will think so, but that is how it felt, as opposed to the outlining method I tried before.)
There is one problem though. This method is difficult, and it kind of hurts my brain. Sometimes when I’m open, and writing and going wild, something comes up that doesn’t really work, so I have to delete, back up, and try again. And again, and again. Until what I have is something that continues to feel true and original to me.
This is hard, so hard. And a lot of work.
But, usually, after I’ve gotten about forty or fifty percent in, I can start to do some outlining, some organizing, and it seems to kind of work …. As long as I’m open to new discoveries that aren’t in the stupid boring outline.
That’s me, that’s how I write. And, guess what? I’m okay with it, as long as it keeps working.