Aug 26, 2009

Dive into your story

Some writers are very organized in how the structure a story.

Note – I did say some writers. Second note – I’m not one of them. Third note – I am not referring to the discipline here.

Writing, researching, reading, editing, ect are all part and parcel of the daily discipline of being a novelist. What I am addressing here is how some writers structure their stories.

Personally, I cannot sit down and plan out a book insofar as deciding start, middle, end, how many chapters, how many words in each chapter, where the pinnacle of the story should hit, subplot, back-story ect. This highly recommended formula works for many – but not for me. My brain simply isn’t structured to work that way. When I try it, I find I get so bogged down in details that inspiration and creativity are gone out the window.

For me, a story begins within the creative right hemisphere of my brain with a single thought calling me – niggling at me. Whether based on fact, or fiction, (although all fiction is loosely based on fact of some sort) it begins to call, to whisper to me – to pose possibilities. The – what ifs, how’s, and then what’s, all start to voice their opinion. A melee of whispers link up and thus a scenario evolves. At this stage, the whispers get louder, and try though I might, they just won’t go away. The old, safety in numbers thing has happened – united in their intent, they have joined forces and have momentum going. They niggle, prod, and poke at me. They whisper and suggest, and they are not going to shut up until I write the story. The process is very similar to an itch you simply must scratch. I finally give in, open a blank page, and often shout; “right, out with you” and thus the labour begins. I really don’t have a choice: the story has hold of me and not the other way around.

If you are familiar with the 1989 film, “Field Of Dreams” you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Is this the most structured way to write a book? I would say not – but it’s the way my mind works, so it’s the way I write.
With practise, I have learned to work with the natural flow of my creativeness and not against it. Sometimes, as the picture above suggests, you just have to take a leap with a story and see where you land.

I seldom see the beginning of a story. I usually see the middle or even the somewhere near the end first. I work with what I have and the rest will present itself in due course.
I have learned to write the skeleton of the story first. I write the bones of the story as fast as I can. You have plenty of time to add to the story and bump up the action later.
As you write the frame of the story, the characters will show you where they are taking you. Then, with no preconceived ideas as to how the story should end, you are free to pose questions along the way and even be surprised yourself by the outcome.

My advice: find what formula works best for you.
Don’t be afraid to jump and follow your characters lead – with practise, you’ll land safe.
Just a thought

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