Join us as Edmond Manning goes Outside the Margins
I watched a movie last weekend, horror-themed, in which six people set out on a boat trip and murderous horrors happen to the five who already knew each other before the yacht left shore. The sixth was a woman killed in the storm that initiated the remaining five’s misadventures.
After the movie, we were laughing about the unfortunate sixth role, to show up, and go on the worst first date ever: drowning at sea after being rejected by the man you were set up with.
“This is why you should never do a first date at sea,” said my friend.
I said, “She had an important role. She was a plot device called a MacGuffin.”
I only recently learned about the MacGuffin from a mentor of mine. I do not speak publicly much of this mentor because she always wants to maintain a low profile. How low? She is cringing reading this. But I go to her when I need advice and I am lost. First, she laughs at me and then helps me enormously.
We met in 2008 after the first king story was published online, long before King Perry. She said in an email, “You’re pretty good. But you need an editor. Someone who tells you ‘don’t do that. It’s stupid.'”
She was right.
And it was her.
She appreciated I write a flavor of magical realism but she pushed for more realism, better explanations, more revelations about Vin’s motivations. Giving me feedback on King Perry, she once told me, ‘If I was Perry, no way in hell would I get on that boat. No way in hell. You have to make Vin more convincing.'”
After four solid rewrites, she told me, “That’s better. I still would never get on a tugboat to Alcatraz with that crackpot, but okay. I can see it a little better now.”
She’s tough on me.
And I’m tough on her. I get mad at her when she doesn’t phrase her feedback nice enough. I get mad when I explain something to her and she says, “I still don’t buy it.” We have argued and exchanged hurt or angry words.
Months before King Mai was finished, during a “energetic” email exchange, she told me, “I think I’ve taught you all I can teach you, anyway. You’re a much better writer now. I think we should take time apart.”
She was right, but I panicked because it was she who got me here.
Afterwards, I was disappointed with myself and my lack of gratitude. I didn’t need to argue every point with her. I didn’t need to insist her feedback was wrong just because I didn’t like it. I could make changes to my manuscript I wanted to make and ignore the rest. As a writer, I learned this lesson. But I learned it at a cost. And she was right. It was time to part ways.
We remained friends.
We emailed. We chatted. Once in a while, we’d talk about writing and books and then, one day, we made up fully; we were at peace again. Six months later, she offered to read for me. She suggested she read more beta reader than she once did, an editor struggling with me in the weeds. I thanked her. Yes, please. I would like that very much. Now, once again, I benefit from her wisdom and sharpness
However, this time, I do not argue every point. I now say, “Thank you. Thank you.”
We had a text exchange a week or two ago on Facebook. I asked her for help. I had been struggling moving the plot forward in my current work. She texted me, “You need a MacGuffin.”
A plot device.
A MacGuffin (McGuffin or mcguffin) is someone or something that shows up, serves a purpose, and goes away. The term was made popular by Alfred Hitchcock.
The sixth character who drowned in the ocean storm did her bit: she proved the handsome, shirt-flapping-open, beefcake captain was straight, available, attractive to single women. Having fulfilled her role completing his character sketch, she slipped into deep water and conveniently drowned.
We brainstormed possible MacGuffins for my novel and she came upon the perfect plotline within three minutes. Two minutes, perhaps. This insurmountable challenge I had struggled with for a week was resolved—resolved completely and in harmony with the plot, the characters, the themes, and the archetypes. Everything resonated as if someone had struck a big brass gong.
I exploded with thanks and tried to tell her how much this meant to me. To be terrified by the big empty gaps in your own novel…it’s frightening. Will the words come? How will I cross this desert? She understood the gift she had given me. She mentors other writers, too.
I’m glad I still need mentoring.
I’m glad she’s still my mentor.
We stopped working together for a while, but our friendship prevailed.
I’m not sure if she’s the MacGuffin in my life or I’m the MacGuffin in hers. One way or another, she advances my plot, and makes my writing much more of an adventure.
~ Edmond Manning
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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