"Great Western" - Day 590: 5 Minute Freewrite: Sunday - Prompt: glass bottle

in freewrite •  3 months ago 

It was a sign,

a gift from the gods, even, like the Coke bottle in the movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy." It was deposited by flood waters in the understory of tall trees down by the river, and I was on a daily dog walk, kicking around ideas for a novel I'd been wanting to write, but it would be a historical, set in the Old West, and that means research. Lots of details and accuracy required. Why did it have to be set in the Old West, with a young woman put on a train with orders to send her to the end of the line, though she didn't hear that. (And "omnisicent narrator" is verboten, and Point of View violation is even more forbidden.) So I despaired of ever writing this novel, and didn't know the heroine's name anyway, nor the title, and those are things that usually come first for me. Or did, back then, This was 2003.

Glinting in the light, a brown glass bottle caught my eye. Lo and behold, spelled out in old fashioned cursive were the words

"Great Western"


in the dirt, in the woods, near the river, in a remote location, much like the one my heroine would find herself in after waking up from a very long train ride -- not at a station, meeting her intended, but in the wilderness, where she had been left for dead. A dog has awakened her, has saved her life, in fact, and she...

Yes. As a matter of fact, the story I never wrote gets recycled in my mind, and anyone who's read me before will recognize my NaNoWriMo story, re-set in Germany in the era of Napoleon, which is even worse for me in terms of historical accuracy and knowledge that I don't have and might never acquire.

On this particular glass bottle, the name of the winemaker, Pleasant Valley, was also remarkable because that was the name of the church I grew up in from infancy. What more could I have asked for in the way of signs and omens? Um...

A Muse.


I wanted a muse. I wanted the story to come flowing from my fingertips to the keyboard. Epic characters: the young priest, the Sioux warrior, the Army scout, the men who'd come and go in this heroine's life, and the trajectory of her cynicism and distrust of all men, all women, all creatures except the dog who saved her, and a horse, and--

Ah. The reason I never wrote this is manifesting itself now. I knew the dog would have to die, brutally, violently, needlessly. The Sioux ritual of the dog on the hill at sunset so horrified me, I just couldn't go there, couldn't watch my heroine come to despise the natives for their ritual, couldn't watch the natives exterminated by the Army (and the scout, the tall sandy-haired man on horseback), couldn't walk with the heroine over the battlefield soaked in the blood of people she'd trusted and loved, then hated, then saw exterminated, and now she loved them again only to mourn them.

A really sad part of the glass bottle story

is that it was not broken when I found it. I should have treasured this thing, kept it safe in a revered place in the house, becaues it appeared to me like a sign from the gods that I should write this novel. But I didn't write it. I stashed the bottle in the garage, where it got tipped over and broken.

What a metaphor.

The girl on the train became the title of a best-selling novel more than ten years after my own girl on a train got dumped and left for dead in the woods by the river.

Various scenes unfolded in my head as I walked our dogs, Blaise and Bailey, to the river and through the woods and over wetlands and meadows. Both dogs are now dead. Prince and Bear walk with me now.

The ending of this "Great Western" has been vivid in my mind for years, but I have never answered the call to write it.

Maybe if I tackle it as a short story or novella, not a novel, I can do this thing. The past year of freewrites and short stories has transformed me. As I read novels, I think "Too long. Too many details. Cut to the chase." I used to like long novels. Used to prefer novels to short stories. Now I'm thinking Less Is More. Maybe a series of vignettes would do it.

No. This saga of the American Frontier is doomed to be as long as the Lonesome Dove trilogy that inspired it, and I am daunted, and disheartened, and horrified at the atrocities my heroine will make me witness.

I have walked through Brownsville, Nebraska, knowing this has to be the town "at the end of the line," at least when the story opens. Brownville was a thriving oasis in the prairie, with beautiful Italianite mansions and hilly streets near the river, where a steamboat is still parked on the bank near the bridge.

Tthe Transcontinental Railroad went through Omaha, a little cow town, which in turn left Brownsville a sad, sorry little cow town in Nowhere, Nebraska.

I have written other heroines left for dead in the woods, but revived and ready to uncover the sordid truth of who tried to kill her and why. Somehow, The Great Western (which is, naturally, the name of a railroad!) is too painful for me to write, even after nearly 20 years of kicking it around in my mind.

Or maybe I'm just lazy.

Or maybe someone has kidnapped my Muse, who is battered and barely conscious and waiting for me to revive her...

Day 590: 5 Minute Freewrite: Sunday - Prompt: glass bottle

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Beautiful reminiscence.
I think that anyone who has ever postponed an artistic endevour can relate to your writer's block. From my experience, some stories,like some love interests, just resist certain suitors, and then just give up to "the right one".
Has it ever happened to you that read a story or novel that you were supposed to have written, an idea that someone somehow "stole" from you?
The good thing is that, like with some movies, sometimes it takes decades for an idea to find its true shape and spirit. Sometimes something has to happen first so that the story can come to life.
If we keep the interest, then we'll be "in the right place at the right moment".

You are so wise - and so young (unless your photo is half a century out of date!). This: some stories,like some love interests, just resist certain suitors, and then just give up to "the right one". This belongs in one of the many How to Write Books out there. Thank you for that insight~
And yes:
Has it ever happened to you that read a story or novel that you were supposed to have written, an idea that someone somehow "stole" from you?
{I would say "beat me to it"} - which is why we don't have the luxury of waiting for the mood to strike, the Muse to dictate, the opportunity to arise. Got an idea? WRITE IT. I'm not sure how soon it'll be fit to publish, but that's what online writing workshops and editors are for.
Thank you again-- for reading and especially for commenting!

  ·  2 months ago (edited)

You are welcome. Thank you for your inspiring work.
I am 46, but the last 3 years have takenn a toll on me. I must have lost some 20 pounds and got some 20,000 white hairs :)
So, I feel like half a century older now :)

You're only one decade younger than me - I never would have guessed! Either your photo is a lie, or you look a lot younger than 46. :) Where is this white hair? How did you lose the 20 pounds??

I meant now I am 40 pounds thinner and 20,000 white hairs older. That profile picture belongs to the-best-time-of-my-life age, when I was a 160-pound grad student in Normal, Illinois (around 2007)

This sounds like a good line to put in a freewrite:
Now I am 40 pounds thinner and 20,000 white hairs older
You once lived in Illinois? Our son was in college in Iowa City in 2007. Not exactly "small world," I know, but you are acquainted with the Midwest. And I'm sure you're still in your best years now. Pluse - white hair is the hallmark of wisdom. :)

  ·  2 months ago (edited)

Hahaha. Yeah. That reminds me of a barber's comment.

Most barbers here (now that the old generation is either dead or out of business swallowed by the generational gap) are young, thug-looking kids; the kind of kid you don't expect to have a conversation with. Actually, unlike the old barbers, who were master storytellers and the best source of news and social commentary, these kids rarely talk to their customers. They talk among themselves (usually barbershops have 4 or more barbers in the same space), which makes you wonder how much attention they are actually paying to your haircut.

Anyways, this kid looks at my hair and enunciates: They say white hair means accumulated knowledge and wisdom. What does that make you? Einstein?

I am acquainted with the Midwest. I loved all those years we spent there. Lovely people, beautiful land (although some people told me they feel they're in the middle of nowhere). I was never treated so decently and with so much respect in my life.

Well, you have a short story there, or a scene in a story! This is a very steal-worthy commentary on barbers of old, barbers of the new millennium, the Midwest, and the wisdom of the ages. Or the 40-somethings. 🤣 I love it!

Love this freewrite, which was written in such a way to give us insight into your creative soul. I certainly don't think you're lazy - and I think the novel-yet-to-be is still waiting to be written - by you! You have too much of the story in your heart and mind to ever abandon it. Maybe you'll never put it all down on paper, but you've practically already written it on your soul.

That's a comment worth framing - or winning a curie comment contest - you write like a poet in everything you write. Thank you!!!!

Well I feel the same whenever I've to be ready for my next blog post. But anyhow I get my muse and hit it.

Some times we have to push it very hard to come out from that state of being lazy, when it's totally not in our favor! @carolkean

That state of being lazy, or call it inertia, it's all the same non-result if we don't write!
Freewriting can be like twirling a lasso - just keep that pen moving (that rope), and you might rope the Muse.
THanks for reading and commenting!

Find her!! I just love your writing!

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Awww, thank you so much!!!
Laziness. Inertia. Paralysis. Fatigue. Despair. All kinds of words flow when I think of reasons I'm not writing. LOL!

I hear you!!!

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I think you just found her, not broken in your garage. We've been watching "Little House on the Prairie" and this #freewrite could have been an episode. I know that when you're ready, you will write it @carolkean. 🤞

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Aww! Thank you!
"Little House", Laura Ingalls Wilder style the subject matter is not--but I do need to tackle it. It don't come easy, but I'll pin it down.
Thanks again!

Oh how I love this! I'll come back later to tell you more. xo

Maybe the time was not right and now she is.
I think too less is better and it will make people read (again).
They can paint there own picture. Pity of the bottle, but perhaps it too says now: less/short is fine too.
💥💕

Less is More. Yes.
I might true to glue the shards of the bottle back together.
"Pity of the Bottle" - that has a ring to it!
Thanks for reading and commenting.


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Thank you so much!!

You make my day, my week, my year - I cannot thank you enough for your encouragement and inspiration!

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This. Ennio Morricone. The poignancy and pathos. This mood, these final images, may be the reason I couldn't "go there" to write this novel/novella. The end of an era, the farewell to an epic character.

This is beautiful writing about writing :) So here is interesting thing, as a side gig I have done period research assignments for authors. I got into it helping my sister who is a romance author and she introduced me to some of her other author friends, who all wanted to write these stories in exciting places and times, but who knew nothing about what the actual details of those places and times were, nor did they want to actually do the research to find out... they all just want to write dammit LOL

Ah, those romance authors!! The best ones do a ton of historical research. Consider "Outlander" and Diana Gabaldon's tremendous best-selling success (and TV series). She did her research. For me, the "cheat" would be to create a parallel history or alt-history setting, or a fantasy world based on medieval Germany, if I didn't actually research daily life in medieval Germany.
Thank you so much for reading and for your kind comments. And I'm glad I'm not alone in shirking the historical research required to write the fiction. :)

Horrors! Now I find this bottle sells for $50 + S&H = $80 on ebay as a "vintage" antique. From a historic New York winery, stone-built in the 1860s. sigh

My indispensable husband glued the broken pieces back to the bottle this morning - it won't be worth $50 on ebay, but I never planned to sell it anyway. It's my reminder that I was given a sign to write something but didn't do it. More than 15 years have passed since I found that bottle in the woods. Finaly, it's in a safe place, along with my toy horses and a collage our son made...