As anyone who’s been following my tweets knows, I’m in between novels right now. I’ve turned Novel #4 over to my agent. It’s her problem now. So it’s on to Novel #5. Yippee!

In my effort to zero in on a world class heavy weight champion of a story, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, freewriting, staring blankly, bookshelf reorganizing, etc.

Then I came upon Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies deck. It’s a deck of cards he and Peter Schmidt created in 1975 as a means of solving creative problems. Basically, if you’re stuck, you pick a card out of the deck, read it, and see if it sends you anywhere useful.

Here are some examples and how they were (possibly) useful to me:

“Discover your formulas and abandon them.”

Of course, being an incredibly original writer of deep artistic integrity, I would never rely on anything so lowly as a formula to write novels. Formulas are for people who lack imagination.

Yeah right, my formulas were so obvious they practically jumped off the page and slapped me in the face. Basically I write about outsiders who are morally challenged by circumstances and who are dangerously susceptible to bad influences whom they mistake as positive role models. I won’t break it down for you by book, but trust me, all three novels (and the one I just finished) fit this description.

So what would happen if I abandoned this formula? Or more intriguingly, what would happen if I subverted this formula? I’d have to write about an insider who is inherently morally challenged and who meets a bad influence who turns out to be a positive role model.

So many possibilities.

Here’s another one from the Oblique Strategies Deck:

“What is the reality of the situation?”

Well, being equipped with the ability to see beyond the obvious into the meta-truths at the heart of our collective hallucination, the answer, which I typed furiously into my Between Novels Journal, was clear:

The world is on the cusp of a global economic breakdown leading potentially to widespread hunger, looting, and war. Or as someone once said (I was too lazy to google it) “any society is only three meals away from a revolution.” Also, the entrenched powerful are currently committed to preventing any rescue from this dire economic situation because they fear the loss of their power and money more than the collapse of civilization itself. They would rather cling to their power and money in a decaying, even apocalyptic world, than to cede anything to the underclass. This will not end well. For anyone.

Yeah, I think there may be a story in there.

Or not. Who knows.