Two Writers, One Dance - The Chemistry of Collaboration
Cut to scene at the station…
She watched as people started filing around the front of the train and heading her way. Jamie wasn’t hard to spot – not because she recognized him, but because he was the one not carrying a briefcase, or wearing a dress. The closer he came, the more she realized she knew nothing about boys. He had quite obviously evolved into something else. He’d had baby fat in the photos… He wasn’t pudgy exactly, but – he was a kid. This wasn’t a kid. What the hell had happened?
She didn’t know if he recognized her, but she didn’t give him a chance to feel awkward. “Jamie! It’s me, Mae. I’m so glad you decided to accept the position,” with that she stepped forward and found herself reaching up to give him a hug. She had planned it out before his arrival, hoping to console him, knowing he must be broken hearted and wanting him to feel welcome. It didn’t feel quite like she had imagined it though… He was harder than he was supposed to be. Bigger. She awkwardly patted his back and stepped back.
“Let’s get you out of here. We can talk on the way home. Gimme one of those bags,” she said, reaching for the smallest of the two.
“No, I got it. That’s okay.”
“Alrighty, then,” Mae said, as she turned and led the way back through the train station. Her mind was spinning, as she realized this wasn’t going to be easy. She’d never been good with people, and had considered meeting her guests at the Inn one of her biggest accomplishments. She tended to talk too much when she was nervous and she was definitely nervous. As she walked, she felt herself starting to sweat.
The first thing Jamie thought when this lady started hollering his name and waving at him on the platform was, ‘Damn, mom's pretty cute...’ Of course, it was hard to make too precise a judgment with her hair pulled back and loosely dressed in ‘yard work’ clothes, not to mention the way her feet were covered in grass. But he could also see a delicate, refined face, hinting at a definite beauty hiding behind sweat streaks and dirt smudges. He saw subtle curves peaking from beneath the baggy clothes, betraying the hidden presence of a mature sexiness.
He was already shocked by how much his mom's best friend was so NOT his mom! At least, she wasn't in appearance anyway. There was something awkward in the way she reached up to hug him, too. It was as if she lunged forward to embrace him like a familiar friend, but froze when she touched his back. She pushed her hips back away from him a little and gave him a weird pat before quickly stepping back.
"Fuck, do I stink or something?" was his anxious response.
THAT was collaboration - and collaboration is one of my favorite things to do. I have never actually finished a project with another writer, but I have started a few. To me, piecing together a story with another author is to writing what a roller coaster is to an amusement park. It is the ultimate rush.
There are countless ways two writers can collaborate. Sharing contacts, promoting one another, reaching back to pull the other along when you move a step ahead, and running to catch up when the other moves on to the next stage. All of those things can become part of a mutually beneficial writing relationship. But, when two writers dance to the tune of their shared writing chemistry, magic can happen.
Working with someone that you share that ‘special something’ with can take your writing to a new level. Not just for that one exercise or full blown novel, but the experience can carry over to when you are working solo again. It allows a writer to step back and observe genuine reactions to our own moves.
When writing in collaboration with another author, you can’t guide the ship. You are forced to tease or persuade or flirt with your writing partner, trying to get them to go in the direction you want, but the path is uncertain and unpredictable. Your reactions are pure because you are responding to the unknown. And, with each page you scrawl or type or dictate – you don’t know what pages will be coming back your way. There is a sexiness and sizzle that can carry throughout the entire piece, simply because you are trying to flirt your way to the outcome you desire.
Collaboration with another writer, stretches writing muscles. It forces our imagination to get out of its safe place, sometimes making us reach new levels of creativity in an effort to match the steps of our partner. The train station scene was written with a young author that kept me on my toes. Thayer Carter – no relation - is going to go places in his writing career, and I felt a responsibility to piece together words that would be worthy of his amazing talent. He pushed me, and I hope I pushed him.
Writing with another author can be sexy and scary all at the same time. You throw out a trail of crumbs, hoping the other will follow. When you walk away, you put a little extra sway in your hips, trying to lure them along. At the same time, you are watching your own movements, trying to measure up to your partner, not wanting to disappoint. Working together allows for a special flirtation that only comes from sharing the page with another writer. That is the magic of collaboration.
Thayer and I never finished our story. But, we created two people who will always be ‘our’ Jamie and Mae. In a way I am glad that we left them safely in that sweet place, back at the Inn. They will wander the grounds together, always knowing the innocent curiosity that they discovered at the train station, untainted by any of life’s hurt. And I walk away seeing our story through the eyes of a young man, and feeling his reaction to my character and her actions. I look forward to someday finding another writing partner and actually finishing a dance.
Encouraging others to realize their writing abilities, through collaboration and friendship. Walk In Those Shoes
Hey Kim, great post again. You have a great skill at conjuring up images in my mind with your words.