The Vonnegut Spread

photo credit: me
photo credit: me

In my mind there is a crystal ball. Lights dance and drip across the surace as though painted by a careless hand. Cradled in the light is a man and that man having a wonderful day. “Oh no, I tsk, reaching for a familiar deck of cards, “This won’t do at all. Time to liven things up a bit.”

Last month, I was telling Kate about the Vonnegut spread I use to help plot out the scenes in my stories and I promised to write a post about it. Well, I forgot until today (sorry, Kate!), but I figured better late than never, so here you go!

I designed this spread after reading a Kurt Vonnegut quote which said, “When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away—even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaningless of modern life still have to drink water from time to time”

So, with that in mind, I designed a 5 card spread.

Card One: what the character wants

Card Two: what opposes that want

Card Three: rising action

Card Four: Climax

Card Five: Resolution

So, to test it out and stretch my writing muscles, I decided to test it out on a random writing prompt. I grabbed my copy of The Pocket Muse II: Endless Inspiration  as well as my copy of The Chronicles of Destiny Fortune Cards and sat down to write a scene. The Pocket Muse is one of my favorite books because just paging through it always makes me want to write something. And, as I discussed in my last post, The Chronicles of Destiny Fortune Cards has been my constant writing companion lately. There is something about it that elevates every reading into an adventure and I love the energy it injects into my writing. So, without further ado

photo credit: me
photo credit: me

The Prompt: A Man walks into a bar. But it’s not a bar.

The reading:

Card one (what does he want) Review: taking stock, feeling he missed something important

Card two ( what opposes this wish) Adventure: A new opportunity, something familiar and unknown

Card three (rising action) Resolve: preparing for a battle ahead, everything they came for now at stake, there is no turning back

Card four (climax) Distant Shore: long journey, great distance

Resolution (Lady Winter) matters developing although they can’t be seen, slow and steady progress

photo credit: me
photo credit: me

The Story:

By the time he made it to the bar, the worst of the driving rain had passed. So the bar should have appeared friendlier, Paul thought. It didn’t. The crackling red letters spelling out Sport Devil’s Bar seemed to have trapped the lightning’s power. They crackled and lashed out against the sullen night. The few ghostly street lamps grimly tossed a pittance of light, and it slashed across broken glass and discarded cigarette buttes. The wind broke the few spindley trees almost in half and their shadows danced above the asphalt with a macabre frenzy.

Hardly the look of a financial goldmine, he thought. But the location was sound. And the fact that no one wanted it made it perfect. His hands tightened around his keys and he forced them to relax. This could be his start. The beginning of his legacy. If he could carve this decrepit little hovel into a high level establishment…The loud crack of breaking glass broke him out of his fantasy and he shook himself. One thing at a time.

Fighting his way through the cloud of smoke, perfume, stale beer, and fried food, he made his way to the door, pretending the liquid that squelched under his shoes was rain. As he reached the door, it swung open with a tortured groan, the hinges screaming the entire way. A rotund man spilled out with a pulse of music. Classical music, Paul noted with a frown. How…odd, for a bar. Reaching down to the man, he offered his hand. “All right there, buddy?”

The man ignored him. Scrambling to his feet, he stumbled, then ran through the parking lot before vanishing into the night. Paul stared after him in astonishment until a voice spoke behind him. “May I help you?”

Turning, he saw a slim man of indeterminate age staring at him. Actually thought, everything about him was so indeterminate he would have trouble describing him.

“Yes, actually,” he thought, shaking off the oddness. “I came here to-” he moved forward, only to break off as the other man made no move to stop blocking the door. “May I come in?”

“I’m afraid this bar is invitation only.”

What? Aloud he said, “I came on the owner’s behest. He is still being held up in Scotland and sends his regrets. He sent me on his behalf to touch base and make sure everything is up to par for the transition.”

With every word, the other man uncoiled like a spring until his entire frame practically vibrated. “Of course. Please enter and be welcome. I will take you to our night manager. You have spoken to her already, I presume?”

“Mrs. Gibson? Yes, I have. And may I have your name, please?”

The man before him went suddenly, impossibly still. “My name? You may call me John.”

“Okay, Paul said, smiling his best ‘everything’s fine’ smile. “Lead the way.” As they wove their way through the tables, Paul did his best to ignore the eccentric decor, making a mental note to call an interior designer first thing in the morning.

As “John” brushed by the bar, though, Paul stopped him struck. “There’s no alcohol at the bar.”

“No,” John acknowledged with a glance at the shiny black surface.

“Do you not sell alcohol at this bar?” Paul fought to keep the disbelief out of his voice. No need to alienate someone he may need later.

“On occasion, yes. Now, if you will wait in here,” John said, gesturing to an almost invisible doorway, “I will go get Ms. Gibson.”

Paul crossed to the door, glancing back at the strange man and the stranger bar. Given what he had seen so far, he wouldn’t be surprised if Ms. Gibson flew in on giant bat wings. He imagined calling Mr. Aldrickson in Scotland and telling him the job was looking a lot more difficult  than he anticipated and cringed. No way in hell. One way or another, no matter how much crazy they threw at him, he would have this Bar of the Damned front page on the society page by the New Year.

****And scene: So that is the process and the result!! Hopefully, this was helpful!***

2 thoughts on “The Vonnegut Spread

  1. Oh, my goodness, this is awesome. I particularly like this line: “They crackled and lashed out against the sullen night.” Have I mentioned how much I love your writing? Reading your work is like taking a vacation–comfy, but breathtaking, too.

    I’m going to have to try the Vonnegut spread. 🙂


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