Monday, 28 January 2013

Stories: craft or flash?

If I could talk to other writers the question I would most want to ask is how their stories get written. Stories are often, I should think always, born long before they're written. It's the writing that takes the time. I've got a minimum of fifty outlines scattered across my ancient laptop. Some are merely a sentence, others a title. Some have a dialogue, others a summary. The problem is taking this mismatched information and turning it into something that could actually be called a story.

I'm certain, even without asking, that every writer has a process. Even more, I'm certain that every writer's process is different. Having spent six years of my life in academia I've heard a lot of different stories about how people write an essay. What I've learned is that whether you start with your primary sources, your conclusion, your historiography, there is a general format to be followed. Stories are much more open and I imagine the process for creating them is less restrictive as well (although I once heard of a grad student that had to sit on her bathroom floor in a feathered hat in order to write).

For me, stories are written two ways. First, sitting down and writing. Setting aside a specific portion of my day to write. Unfortunately, inspiration is not a prerequisite for these sessions. You can arrive at your computer with absolutely no idea what you're going to write. Those moments when the little curser is blinking on the blank document page, waiting for you to direct it are probably the bette noire of many an accomplished writer. The fact of the matter is, no matter how creative you might be, no matter how amazing your ideas, writing actually takes discipline. You need to be able to sit down for the hour that you've allowed yourself and create something, whether it's a character description, some back-story, or a few pages of dialogue. Maybe it's just nailing down the names for those mercenaries you've had trekking through a bog for the last seven weeks.

It's not particularly exhilarating, but when you come back to it the next day it's exciting to see what you've accomplished. Sometimes those hours of grinding out the necessary elements of storycraft can even gift you with your best chapters. Or shake loose an epiphany. Persistence is part of it and although less glamorous than wild inspiration that causes your fingers to fly over the keys for hours on end, this crafting of lore and legend is the staple of every writer. Or at least it's the staple of my writing.

Second and also indispensible are what I call flashes. For any of you out there that have watched NBC's Chuck, you'll already know what a flash is. Essentially, it's like your whole "everything" freezes for a few seconds while you're struck with a mind-blowing flash of knowledge. It's like watching a movie scene at warpspeed or downloading an insane amount of information, almost more than you can process.

Flashes are amazing and frustrating at the same time. They're amazing because, well, who says no to inspiration? They're frustrating because the images, the voices, the faces, the scene, the dialogue are so clear in my mind that it's almost impossible for words to recreate them to my satisfaction. They also tend to be fairly random and disjointed so I really have no idea where they fit in the marvelous labyrinth of all of my crafted work. The worst part is, sometimes they don'

Having met only a few writers who will admit to being writers (we tend to be a skittish breed), I find it hard to gauge whether my process is normal or if I'm an aberration. Given my oddities in other areas, being an aberration wouldn’t surprise me, but maybe I’m making things harder on myself than need be. Although, having written a 25 chapter novella (that is God awful and you are never seeing! Curses to teenage angst :P) by the time I was seventeen, maybe my aberrations are working for me. Either way, it’s the only process I know and although flash hangovers are a bitch and my mind is often a muddle of disjointed scenes, plots, and melodies – I wouldn’t trade it for any other.

Btw – this little drabble was inspired by a flash earlier today while I should have been paying attention to a TA lecture. Perhaps I’ll attempt to get the rough draft of the first little bit down for you and post it sometime this week. For once it was actually an entire scene/chapter rather than just part of one, but I’ll do my best to give you a piece! Cheers~

No comments:

Post a Comment