Every time I start writing, I’m ever quite sure where it’s going to end. I mean, I have some sort of vague idea or plot point, but how do I get to that ending? It doesn’t even have to be an ending. Maybe it’s just a moment that I need to write. Is it special? Mundane? Every day? “Let’s find out” and “Tell me more” are the reasons I write.
A Hint of Almost: I think I’ve said, and it should be understood, a writer’s inspiration come from the strangest places. Despite it’s almost cult status in media, manga and anime are indicative of this philosophy. Great stories are told from simple moments. Not everything is a Dragonball Z or Neon Genesis Evangeleon. (For those who don’t know, they are off the wall ridiculous. Some of the craziest ideas thrown at the walls that stick) Some of the greatest stories are built from the simplest idea. Like Chatting at the Amber Tea House, a story about two girls who fall in love at a coffee shop. Or H2, a story of two high school friends who are baseball rivals.
I hold to the idea that the greatest stories are the simple ones. Stewart O’Nan tells intricate stories about simplest ideas, one of personal favorite is the Last Night at the Lobster. Even television, like Friends and Big Bang Theory, where the stories and characters are so bizarre we often think they’re impossible and overly dramatic can be built on truth. After all, if you took every strange, outlandish situation you’re placed in every year and you’ve probably got enough for 20, 20 minute shows a year. All the horrible one-liners we spit out to our friends, the strange encounters we have (a friend helped a blind man across the street and had her butt groped), the highs and the lows. These are simple things that inspire.
Writing these down is a great way to inspire ideas. Here are some that I’ve come up with (some recently others not):
- A boy dreams of a best friend he’s never met. Across the world, a girl’s imaginary friend appears and disappears. They are the dreamers and the dreams. What if your best friend only existed in your dreams?
- A young man falls for an older coworker. Coworker has a husband and he’s got a girlfriend.
- The funeral for a father. A son returns after 7 years.
- Visiting a former professor with her children for a weekend. A retrospective on whether a girl is ready for children or not.
- Breaking your primary hand. And trying to get around your apartment. A hot, summer day with a lonely cat.
I want to post 5 new story ideas every week.
Woods Between the Worlds: Why list them? Conveying the idea in it’s simplest, succinct form is always hardest. Forcing myself to phrase them concisely is a way to get started. For me, this is often the hardest part. I will frequently run myself in circles, within dialogue or description.
It’s not that I think running myself in circles is really a bad thing. Often, that’s the only way to find a serious idea. Otherwise, I just stare at the screen, unsure of what to write. I’m not sure if that qualifies as writers block or just a function of my writing. Still, getting at the heart of a story involves writing it.
The heart of writing is discovering another world, then showing that world to someone else. The only way to accomplish that is putting the idea down on paper.
A Good Day to Dye: If this blog is anything like my natural writing process, we aren’t going to see overly refined words strung together. That’s for another time and place, editing. Sure, there are moments of brilliance where the words are easy and sultry, but often times I only find that after staring at the page, crossing out what I thought was good, rediscovering what I wanted to say.
There are writers out there, like GRR Martin, who are notoriously slow. After all, it took him seven years to complete his latest installment of A Song of Ice and Fire. I understand the desire fans have to know what happens next. I love information and frequently find myself sorting through wiki’s and rereading to make sure I’ve understood. At the same time, quality is an issue.
In JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, each book was published just two years apart. Progressively, each book became longer. When I was reading, despite my pleasure at having the book in front of me, I was actively displeased by needless fattening of the world. The editing and revision didn’t seem as strong as the series progressed.
I guess what I’m saying is that taking your time to get the proper story matters. No matter what anyone else says.
Importance of a Name: Internal logic for names is important. I’m not saying anyone else has to understand the logic, just that it must exist. There are entire dissertations on Harry Potter and where the characters hail from. Everything from their first name to family tells us something about the characters.
When coming up with names, internal logic is needed. Does one species names come from something human? Are they references to historical figures? For instance, if I were creating a race of warrior poets, do I name them after ancient philosophers or Nietzche? Perhaps I want to simply give them a first name, followed by their mother’s name. As long as there is consistency, then everything works out.
This logic never needs to be told to the readers. If consistant, they’ll figure it out for themselves eventually.
Afterward: Nothing is harder than really sitting down and concentrating. Distractions, even as I write this, are abundant. After all, I’m clearly on a computer with internet access. I can think of at least five things I’ve done since sitting down that don’t involve me posting this. But that’s okay. I set myself a deadline and I’m sticking to it. Blogging gives that ability. There aren’t any deadlines and I can make as many errors as I feel like slipping through. (though really that shouldn’t be all that high, if any at all)
On the other hand, there’s a need to say the right thing. A need to get your vision correct. That’s the story you want to tell, to never give up on. That’s what I appreciate about A Song of Ice and Fire and wish Harry Potter has spent more time on. Then again, I haven’t sold millions of copies world wide. When we write, our words are a shot at immortality, for others to remember the strangest of dreams and the richness of them. We should take the time to make those words count.
A friend of mine, an English professor, once asked why I’m pushing my story so hard. I have years, she tells me, to get it right. Maybe, but it’ll only take longer if I push it off. I once heard (maybe it was a college writing class, I’m honestly not sure) it takes 10-12 year for a first time author to even write a book he or she is proud enough to try to sell. Now, I’m not sure that’s true, but I’m 8 years into my process. Fair or unfair, I’ve held down a full time job, gone to college for another degree entirely (chemistry) so I’ve been a little distracted.
Short version of this: I’m going to work at this till I get it right. Even if that means scratching entire ideas and chapters because they aren’t working. So, just like my goal was to publish this post by today, I’ve set a goal for finding an editor. That doesn’t mean I’ll keep that deadline, but it’s a good start and better than putting this off.
See you all on Tuesday for the second half of my review for The Signal and the Noise.