May 16, 2007

Piecing It All Together

Lately, I've been overwhelmed with story ideas. Sometimes they come in trickles; sometimes in great bursts. I've been making a point to at least get them out on paper or in a Word doc - so I have something to go back to when I'm ready to develop it further.

The good news, is that unknowingly, I've come up with several ideas that may fit into one story - a story I began developing quite a few months ago, but abandoned because I'd hit a wall. The other day I came up with a creature and a whole plot line that would surround these creatures.


I love it when the character or subject comes ready-made with a few "musts" involved. As an example: my new guys are strictly nocturnal. This will require a fair bit of explanation, thus giving me more to write about. They also appear extremely attractive, so I will have to explain why and so forth. It just gets me on a role. The new creatures also fit into the vision I have for this previous story, so that's how I knew they'd fit.

I guess "vision" is vague. I'll try to explain. In my head, each character and it's situation has a sort of feel, like a movie. People will describe a movie as being "dark" or "whimsical" etc. As I develop a character or a setting, it fits into my mental categories automatically.

So let's say I invent a guy named Bob. Now maybe all I've come up with is that he is bald. I saw a picture in my head and that's sparked something that, to me, begs to be explored. So now we have Bald Bob. So next, maybe it turns out that Bald Bob is an accountant. So each time an attribute is attached to Bob, I get a feel for how this influences what will happen to Bob. Will he be boring? Maybe. So let's now say we have Boring Bald Bob and it's tax season. That means Bob is now busy. He becomes Busy Boring Bald Bob. This could go on for ages, or it could end there.

If all I can come up with is that we have Busy Boring Bald Bob, then he gets described and set aside. If however, he happens to find a magic stapler on his desk, well then I keep going. My goal becomes to just develop the initial idea to a stopping point. It only ends when I can't think of anything for Bob to do. So - now, this idea gets set aside.

The main point, is that I end up with several undeveloped ideas floating around, but at least out of my head and put into words or Word (as in Microsoft Word - hee hee. I know - I'm a dork.).

So say a few weeks later, I'm driving to the grocery store and see a lady in her car and she has four small dogs crawling all over her while she's trying to drive. Boom - she's Canine Cathy. From here, I realize that Canine Cathy and Bald Bob would definitely exist in the same universe as each other, and I'll somehow be able to piece them together.

Now we have something to work with. I can start to weave the characters and add in the setting and decide what exactly will happen to them. Sometimes though, it isn't that easy. Maybe I'm not sure where to lead them or what exciting adventure they'll have, but at least I have two pieces to my puzzle. At that point, they get set aside, but maybe I'll change the title of one to make sure I remember that Bob and Cathy are supposed to go in the same story.

Until now, I've really only gotten past this initial phase of development for a story, with two exceptions. The first, I've dismissed as too juvenile and not interesting enough; and I've hit a huge wall with the second one and am considering rethinking and rewriting most of it. I like the characters a lot and can see what will happen, but I think I rushed to get to the good stuff too soon. It happens.

I'm really working on the fact that it's okay for me to know everything about the story, but not tell the reader until the right time. I'm learning the craft of writing and am always looking for learning opportunities. (I've been so blessed to be in communication with fellow writers, many of whom are much more experienced than myself.)

The very first story idea I had was a little developed and then morphed into something different and then got shoved way off to the side and hasn't been looked at for months. Until now.

These new creatures I came up with have sparked some life back into a story idea I thought was dead for good. I'm so excited and have been mulling over the characteristics and impact of their role. It has definitely been concreted into my mind that I will use them and develop them. They will move the story in an awesome direction that will send a message to the reader that speaks of struggles of faith like none I've conceived thus far, but in a playful and whimsical way.

It keeps striking me that I get to write about the things that interest me. If I want to write about a lost key that opens the door to a magical world - I can. If I want to write about a fuzzy purple elephant that flies - I can. No matter how silly or far-fetched, I can do whatever I want. In many ways - it makes me feel a sense of freedom that I've never known.

God has opened this door and I've stepped through in faith, and boy, am I glad I have.

By the way: I do not use alliteration to assimilate my characters' attributes. Nor do I now, nor ever have any characters named Bob or Cathy.


Unknown said...

Way to go, girl! This post was really a neat read. It's so interesting to see how other authors view story writing, characters, and what not.

When I hit a dull part in my story plot, I ask myself: Do I need conflict here? What goals is my character trying to attain and does this scene help move them towards (or away) from it.

Amy Browning said...

Thanks Eve!

I'm so glad you've added some of your process here. I was hoping to spark some good conversations with this one.

Conflict is always good. I liked Wayne's "Frustration" technique. It's so fun to torture the characters.

Unknown said...

Hmm....just gave me an idea....

Josh said...

my dear amy thank you for the comment. i see what you mean by the trust issue throughout the characters
i cant wait to see the season finally tonight. im petty sure i will wright a blog on it to lol.