When Muse and Plan Collaborate — One Writer’s Journey

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by Larry Brooks on November 23, 2012

Prologue (from Larry): What you’re about to read is a response to a recent Storyfix post about good vs. “bad” ideas.  It’s from a guy whose mind, I’ve learned, is massively alive and deep in a “Life of Pi” sort of way, embracing ideas and integrating mental models into an interpretation of life and its submission to natural law.

It’s raw, unedited, heavy… and totally brilliant (IMO).

And it may be you, as well.  All of us bring some hint of pantsing to our planning, and/or planning to our pantsing, and  the ensuing dance can be the stuff of crazy-making.  For me, and hopefully for you, Kerry brings a little sanity and clarity to it all while poking the creative bear with a provocative get-off-your-ass stick.

Enjoy.

*****

A Guest Post by Kerry Boytzun

That was a great article, at least it was timely for myself as I’m struggling with finding my story, or perhaps just proceeding normally for someone who never wrote a novel, read your book, and really when it comes right down to it— doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing.

So I let the Muse or my Intuition run it. Most of the time. I find that it’s a balancing act—“searching for the story” that’s just outside of the light my idea is shining into the darkness of the creative ether.  I’m not sure but I think this is all natural. I am going back and forth from “designing” (Left Brain?) a story to letting my imagination (right brain but really the Muse) see what it can make of what I’ve given it from the design shop. If I let my Muse run unchecked, it’s akin to getting high and describing how my day went up to the point the nebula of the inner black galactic circle had giant flying bunnies bounce out asking me where the nearest 711 is for a slurpy (remember slurpies?). BUT if I just do the Story Structure stuff—I find myself staring at a bunch of characters and possible plots without any feeling into it. In fact I find myself losing interest. Maybe it’s just me and my Alien genes (I must be alien cause I’m so different from everyone else).

In spite of all that, I find that my best writing, whether non-fiction or fiction, comes when I let my Muse freewheel on a subject I am pondering over. Preferably pissed off and agitated enough to go dust off the soap box. Okay my soap box is well worn from use and has speakers mounted on it…

Thus you’re accurate with the description that the search for story is a courtship. Because that’s how the above feels to me. Great writing too, regarding the more it relies on work instead of the hormones that got you into this—if that ain’t the bloody truth I don’t know what is. Kind of like the guy who chased the bad guys down (and they ran from him) until he cornered them all in the caverns and found out that he was over-matched from the get-go.

I think that some, perhaps all, of those Amazon toads that are bashing your system are in the same boat I’m in BUT they’re not realizing that they have to use BOTH sides of their brains, the planning part and the imaginative part. Hell we’re not educated that we even have two halves of the brain and what that signifies.

My metamorphosis of a so called wannabe writer, has been to read lots of novels and watch lots of movies, and then discern what made them different and why (this was 20 years ago). I read Jerry Cleaver’s Immediate Fiction (8 months ago) which was good but wasn’t much for planning, and then I read Editing books by publishers, etc. Oh yeah, years ago I read How to write a damned good novel which was good but not much for planning. Then I read the software book theory Dramatica Pro (about 5 years ago) which is very intriguing and very complex—unwieldy for planning.

Let me elaborate on that: in NLP and in Dramatica Pro, both of which are dealing with psychology, they will ask questions to which one would hopefully be able to answer. BUT here’s the catch: what they’re really asking for—searching for—is that which I, the customer, do NOT have an answer for, otherwise I wouldn’t be interested in their system (NLP or Dramatica). It’s no different than the Master asking the Grasshopper what he wants from life. It’s a stupid question because a grasshopper by definition — doesn’t know anything. He’s not the all-knowing one because he hasn’t had the (life) experience yet. Thus I find myself unable to answer many questions about my story—for which I don’t know because I haven’t found the story. **That being said, nobody will find the story for me but me—kind of like life experience—so I HAVE to search for these answers that I don’t know—in order to find the answers.

That’s bloody hard!

Hence, the attraction to pantsing because one avoids the weight of the burden of not knowing what you’re asked to know—but instead just moves forward and writes away in this case (no different from romancing the girl that gave you that look from across the room and taking it from there…see if you get along instead of asking her what she values in life…NLP) to see what you can make of what your wrote. Kind of like driving to an unknown destination while checking the rear view mirror to see if anything is of interest that you’re leaving behind.

Okay I got sidetracked (imagine that). Back to my metamorphosis: Four years ago I figured out I couldn’t use Dramatica and instead got one of the founder’s lite replacements called Story Weaver which asked me yet again a bunch of questions that I didn’t have answers to. Larry, realize that YEARS of my life are flashing by while this is going on. I started it back in the late 90′s, but because I don’t know where to go—I get stuck and then get distracted by having to make money to eat, etc. LOL. So, what 5 months ago I get back into it, read Cleaver’s book and then was reading Outlining your Novel where the author had interviewed YOU. She’s to blame. Always a woman…Jimmy Buffet (I love Key West) Anyhow, I get on your website and then get your book. I’m back in the saddle, you’ve filled in a lot of gaps. And I’m still stuck searching for the story.

What I’m doing currently, is I’ve created a bunch of characters that have surrounded an idea. Okay more than one idea. And there’s back history and research.  If you saw the attachments I’ve sent you, the mind map picture shows a LOT. And that’s all real good. What I’ve found is that I have given my Muse something to do.

As of late, my Muse told me to write as if I’m one of the characters describing their life, just as if you met them at a bar and are asking them what do you do? I’m writing what the characters are saying, describing, and thus fleshing out what my story idea looks like on stage or the screen. For me that works. I’m seeing different characters and their life goals and desires, intertwining politics and how all their lives cross over one another’s path. That’s the key for me.

Somewhere in that collage of character’s life path’s is revealed an authentic story whereby ONE of the characters did something that affected ALL of the other characters. Interestingly, this wasn’t the hero, nor the actual antagonist. This character decided that he didn’t like the way things had gone for the “family” or “organization” or “syndicate” that he was a member of. No, he had the foresight and the wisdom to see that they were on course to destroy themselves without them even realizing it. It’s common actually amongst the powerful. Power takes over wisdom and eventually the organization becomes neurotic and implodes. Call it Nature. This organization was destroying its own food supply of sorts. Thus this character decided he had to do something. BUT this isn’t something that is done overnight or in a few years. It will take probably over 5 years and will involve changing the perceptions, understandings and thus goals of key people that can change an organization. Some call it mutiny. Others call it a revolution. The USA called it…America. It’s good if you’re left standing.

Moving along, my hero is caught up in the scheme of things as a glorified consultant who was invited to the party. When his life changes as a result—that’s his FPP.  I’ve come to realize that this Epic Story had a beginning long before my hero got involved most unwittingly. That was the back story. Now I’m searching for what part it plays in the big picture scheme of things so that the concept can be flushed out and the Ending be obvious  Overall my Story involves Change, personal, inner, and the outer regime type.

But I can’t find it by answering questions. But I can’t create the basic building blocks to arrange the above back story stage without the questions. What a tangled web that Story ideas weave into a concept.

I don’t know how much of this is helpful. Half of it is to help others and yourself. The other half of it is for myeslf. I am finding out that if I think to myself—that’s one thing, but if I write to myself—that creates something that seems to be more powerful. And I can look it over and get more ideas from it.

On another note, you’re dead-on with the Bad Ideas bit. Oops, I was going to use the computer hacker figures it out but after what you wrote, I decided that what needs to be shown not told is HOW the hacker found out the secrets. For example, I’m in IT, and if I wanted to find out what the CEO was thinking about X and Y—all that has to be done is to hack his mailbox from the Exchange server and look at his emails. This was done in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo novels somewhat. Hacking in novels and Hollywood has hardly been accurate—not even close. But even if it’s done well, it’s not as scary as getting information the old fashioned way, where the hero places bugs in the CEO’s office, or taps his phone. Better yet is talking to his secretary and bribing her or blackmailing her for information. NOW we’re talking…do something that gets us worried, that makes us unsure if WE could do this (for moral reasons or that we’re chickens) but that’s why we read novels—for those who have the guts to do what we wished we had the guts to do—and see if they get away with it.

While I’m at it, another thing to blog about one day is what Ben Affleck spoke about in a recent interview regarding Tone in movies. Tone is the ambiance that the audience applies to your story. Publishers call that Genre. Today we have artists saying you can mix genres, such as comedy and drama. That’s bullshit. Ask the guy I was talking to yesterday about a movie he watched the other day (new one) where he couldn’t figure out if the movie was a comedy, drama, love story—or as he put it—what the Frack was supposed to be happening with this movie? Ben—in the interview—said that he was directing a drama and by the time you (he) are editing the movie—it’s too late to change things IF you have messed up your Tone. In other words, he said you can’t have too many jokes in a drama or the audience will think (perceive, respond) that the movie is a Comedy—AND as a result won’t have any FEAR for what happens to the heroes. Because it’s a comedy and bad things don’t happen (if they do then it feels weird and the audience feels like they’ve been fooled—not good for the writer) to the characters, only funny things. Maybe that’s why I don’t like most of this new Hollywood crap. Anyhow Ben said you’re Fracked if the tone has changed and there’s nothing you can do about it.

For me it’s simple: is your story Serious or Light. Serious is drama. Light is humor. Action—well that’s a story minus the depth…blow them up real good…fun but shallow…chase scenes. Patterson makes tons on it for reasons I can’t give other than he appeals to those who can’t figure out anything complicated. Or they’re just lazy minds. Love stories…can be both but the scene moments are the same but the end results are serious or light.

I’ve decided to write it seriously. Jim Butcher writes the Dresden files of which most of the time the hero, Harry, is a smart ass and it’s comical. Hence I’m not worried about what happens to him or his crew. Ever. It’s exciting but not fearsome. But I feel unfulfilled reading his books as the love is never deep and it’s never serious, other than the odd scene that it seems someone else wrote (Butcher wrote a scene where at the end Harry’s nemesis White Council Wizard sacrificed himself for the woman he loved and told Harry he was sorry…it was awesome…someone needs to tell Butcher that’s what he needs to get into).

But for a serious book (not the movie) Michael Crichton’s book, Jurassic Park was scary with the dinosaurs. They were eating people like popcorn. Getting off the trail at the park was tantamount to being added to the menu. BUT that book was Fracking GREAT. I remember the scene where the archaeologist and the kids are on the raft floating down the river and the T-Rex is ignoring ALL the other dinosaurs and instead pursuing these guys like they owe her alimony. The T-Rex showed incredible intelligence, craftiness and intelligence—Crichton’s point for the whole DNA GMO thing in the first place: your creation will kill you because although you think you OWN them, think again—like a Honey Badger…your creation doesn’t give a (swear word, rhymes with “frack”) what you think. It will eat you for dinner first chance it gets.

THAT’S a story! It wasn’t number 1 for nothing.

{ 24 comments }

Mihla November 23, 2012 at 10:12 am

OK, Kerry, who the heck let you into my head?

spinx November 23, 2012 at 2:22 pm

@Kerry

Long read. Chaotic too. Honestly…..I had a bit of trouble following your line of thought.

But I do not mean no harm!!

Of course not – especially when you are adressing a lot of issues and struggles I have gone through, and am still going through at the very moment – as in – RIGHT NOW.

I struggle with plot, and it shows. It slows me down too, because I never have any trouble actually WRITING things down. I can do that, and go on for hours, without having to stop and look over the sentence or structure.
And it works too, until the corridor dissapears and I find myself with – frankly – too much vision.

I am like you, in that I start with my characters first. I don´t create them. They come to me, alive, with a voice, and a certain tone already attached to them. But that is the trouble. They appear out of nowehere – the story doesn´t.

And it´s hard. You know it is. I know it is. And this is something I cannot change, no matter how many books I read and that suggest to start with plot, to not get carried away by character. But I am not naive either. Chracters without story, that is an inner monologue, that is boring – in most cases…..because I know cases…..pheew.

What I have learned, over the past few months – don´t stray from the familiar…

I tried that too. Looking for the spectacular, over the top – looking for something that wasn´t me. Never had been. I´ve given up on that.
What interested me, and always had – mystery, artificial intelligence, moral, relationships, familiyaffairs, small villages – those are the things I am going to work with. Those are things that I have been passionate about – and still burning to write.

Simple – yes, they may be – but you know what? There´s a reason some things work – my job is to make them unique, add my flavour. And I can do that.

I have my characters, and what I am trying to do right now, is to create a plot from those topics above, those things I always had a burning for. And god…..I hope i can finally get rid of this last problem this way. I pray to g.o.d!!

Peace out :T

(feel free to e-mail me about this, as it very much interests me to hear more about the struggles that have pleagued me as well. Don´t be offended by my english – I´m not either ;T)

Amy Warwick November 24, 2012 at 7:59 am

Kerry,

This is brilliant. You are a step ahead of me, but close to where I want to be. Gives me hope this long, cold winter of writing ahead!

Amy

Michael November 24, 2012 at 9:15 am

Agreed, Kerry. I’ve read the same books (and more), looked at Dramatica (and still use a lot of the book ideas in my writing) and have Story Engineering open on my desk. More terrifying for me, was to sit down at a blank screen with a vague notion of who was going to do what, how the dynamics were going to work out and what the subplots were, and try to write — coherently.

Perhaps it’s that I worked in engineering before going back for microbiology and medical degrees, or maybe it’s the kind of mind drawn to those fields. But my original college major was fine art. I won awards for paintings and supplemented my educational expenses by doing pencil and ink portraits, so I have some working knowledge of the arts as well. Here’s a secret: no painter, no lithographer, no sculptor who ever produced a work worth taking notice of just walked up to a blank canvas or a piece of marble and started wailing away. Doesn’t work that way. Don’t believe the romantic b******t, you produce or starve, and eating is better.

There are some geniuses who are able to “see” the finished piece in their mind’s eye so clearly that they just remove the bits hiding the figure, or put the paint where it already is, but even those rare individuals (and we’re talking Bethoven, Mozart, DaVinci, and Michelangelo) need some training to get to that level. And those guys knew by the time they were five that they were special.

The rest of need a little help, lest we’re forced to repaint the piece a dozen or two times to figure out where Jesus goes on the canvas, or where David’s arm points. And here’s a hint for the pantsers: if you’re serious, really serious about making a living with writing, you don’t have five years to throw four-ton pieces of marble into the back yard looking for Venus, so you either quit your day job and pound keys twelve-hours a day until you find the story, and then do it again, and again, and again, or learn to plan on some internal level, or it’s a hobby.

Period.

The other option is to get some training and learn how to do the job with the least wasted effort. That’s what we’re talking about here, when all the posturing is peeled away — efficiency of effort. How not to waste time, because the Guggenheim doesn’t care how you get that metal bent, they want it next Thursday, and if it takes you sixteen tries to get it right and you miss the deadline, it’s your last commission.

Dramatica and Story Engineering work because they force newbies and fingerpainters to actually decide what they’re going to write before they sit down at a keyboard. It’s a mentoring process, but automated. An artist says to you, “Okay, you want to paint a flower. Let’s decide on color, composition, setting, and style, so when you do pick up your brush, you’re ready to go, and not waste time.”

Planning does limit choices — because it should. Rewriting limits choices, too, my friends, it’s just a slower, more labor-intensive method. Ask yourself why so many successful novelists are former journalists? Because they learned how to plan a piece (story, context and size) before they ever sat down at the keyboard, because they were always writing to a hard deadline. They didn’t have time to d**k around (and yes, I did copy editing in college for the Ft. Myers News Press, too).

Planning doesn’t stifle or cramp your muse, it lets your muse travel a path. It’s your brain that stalls at the sight of structure because it’s new, at least until it gets used to the discipline. Then it frees your mind to the business of being creative, but with a purpose, a goal to aim for. You still get to be the artist, you just have a bank account instead of a marble orchard in the back yard.

Long-winded, I know and I apologize. To summarize: my father (who was neither an artist nor a writer, but a cop) used to say, “If you make a living at something, it’s a career, if you don’t it’s a hobby. Decide.”

trudy November 24, 2012 at 10:00 am

Kerry, thanks for the wild ride into your mind. makes me realise I am not alone in my meandering world. Glad you found Larry.

Larry Brooks November 24, 2012 at 10:12 am

@Michael — well said. Thanks for contributing to this important discussion. L.

Curtis November 24, 2012 at 10:26 am

It appears that writing about story is considerably easier than writing a story.

Martha November 24, 2012 at 10:47 am

Wow! Your guest poster never took a breath, did he? But he said lots of great stuff — stuff we’ve all struggled with. I felt like I was reading about my own journey. I’ve had lots of help along the way, first from JIm Frey (How to Write a Damn Good Novel). Then I met Larry and he made sense of it all for me. Then I hooked up with Marjorie Reynolds, who is teaching me (I’ve spent a lifetime trying to hide my emotions) how to add those emotions to my writing, reminding me that always, “a story is a journey of emotions”.
I’m always happy to see Storyfix in my morning inbox. Thanks, gentlemen, for another excellent and thought-provoking one.

Rachel November 25, 2012 at 2:15 am

I think there’s a myth that storymaking should be easy.

Like, you just sit down at your keyboard, and out pours a full-bodied story, complete with a face-lift and a Prada handbag.

Writing is work, and it ‘don’t come none too easy.’

For some people the work is in discovering their story, others in putting it down the first time, while others hate rewrites. And then there’s the day to day struggle of sitting yourself down and forcing yourself to just write.

For me, starting to write was like a kid going into a candy shop and deciding what to buy. I had so many ideas, that I didn’t know where to start. But it was still hard, because I had to decide what genre I feel most comfortable with, and deep down I felt torn between the desire to write literary fiction (nice thought but who wants to write a novel that will be assigned as homework? And the class groans..), and popular fiction.

But I let my mind wander, and shut off the part of me that tends towards extreme perfectionism, and read about ****ty first drafts in Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird for moral support.

And after all that thinking, I gathered up all of my little eggs and sat down to put the metal to the fire: I ran each and every story idea through the Six Core Principles, to see what emerged from the foundry whole and pure.

And that’s why Story Engineering is so great. Because it lets you see before you waste all your time whether or not a story has what it takes to succeed – to draw the reader into it, to keep your characters and your storyline echoing in their mind long after the book is reluctantly shut.

It’s taken me two months to find the story I want- two months of combing through ideas, fleshing out plots, “story structuring” my favorite stories, checking out Amazon’s bestsellers ( the reviews tell you a lot about what readers want in a good story, and your genre in particular), and figuring out why I want to write this type of story.

Two months of muse – I think I’ve walked around this city more than I’ve walked in the last year- and structure.

Finally today, I’ve begun to put the bit to mouth and get this journey going.
(Of course I had to check Storyfix before I start – it’s kind of like a lucky charm now :)).

For those of you who are still searching for story, a tip about finding your story:

-What do you feel passionate about? Whether it’s a character, an idea, or just the nubbin of something rubbing you under the skin, this is what will eventually bring you to the story you’re meant to tell.

Because ultimately we write because we have something to say. And if that idea doesn’t run around in your head like a little kid on a sugar high, if figuring out the various plot twists doesn’t occupy you during odd moments of the day (like those songs you can’t get out of your head), then …it won’t hold your reader either.

I think it’s something like finding a long-term partner.

Good luck to all.

Kerry Boytzun November 25, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Thanks for all the comments. Anyone wants to email me can do so at my first initial and last name “at” gee-male dott comm.

I have an addendum to what I wrote above that is helping me with my story writing:

I’ve noticed that many stories (novels and movies) have characters that don’t fit the story. In other words, the character shouldn’t have even been there (in the roll they were given).

However, in real life I find that there are always explanations for why someone showed up in your life—and they always make SENSE. There was a Story to tell about how someone that showed up, albeit maybe a boring one. Everyone has a past, present and future. Some call this their Time Line. I recalled a therapy done using Time Lines in NLP and thought about using it to develop Stories. The method I’m calling this is “Story Lines”.

Story Lines will make your story TIGHTER regarding the weaving of how your characters found themselves to be interacting with each other, their past, present and future.

Story Line IDEA: “Converging Story Lines (people’s Time Lines)”. A Story is really the convergence of multiple characters Story Lines. A Story Line is the description of one’s Time Line. A Time Line is the Path one lives, from their past to the future. People cross one another’s paths and many times there’s a story to describe how these paths crossed each other, and what was the result of the crossings. These crossings will create conflict if one finds their own path altered or blocked as the result of collisions.

It’s similar to automobile traffic where some vehicles will travel alongside each other for a while, the drivers briefly noticing each other as they cross paths—and then there are collisions which cause conflict. Automobile collisions are called “accidents” but it’s no accident because there’s a Story to describe what led up to the collision and what became the result of it. That information can be documented in a Story Line or Time Line. Intentions of people are documented in their Story Line’s path, and if someone is targeting another person (planning to meet them or someone like them, and do XYZ to them), either that other person was known of beforehand (paths crossed before) or they just happened to come along at the opportune time (and got hit). Thus consider this Story Line Path idea in regards to a main Story containing individual Story Lines that intersect. I found that the main story became obvious out of the multiple story lines coming out of the characters. In other words, sometimes the most interesting story isn’t the story you thought you were going to write, but it was the character that setup the domino effect that put everything in motion.

I’ve analyzed Stories (movies), and real life, regarding the existence and nature of these Story Lines. They’re always there. Their significance is found in that they’ll answer whether or not someone (character) would actually be motivated-interested in behaving (doing) what the fiction author claims they would be doing in a story. It’s about the REASONS these characters are in the Story the author is developing. In real life it would make sense. In fiction, it better make sense or the story will suffer, or maybe not get off the ground.

The novel I’m developing involves very old organizations and families. My Story is centered amongst these families and involves several of them as characters similar to the Godfather movies. My original story hero wasn’t a member of these families and it wasn’t until I was tracing back the Story Lines of each character that it became very implausible that my hero would NOT be a member of these families. Plain and simple, occult families such as the so called Mafia do NOT trust or do business with anyone that isn’t one of THEM. While this may be obvious now, it wasn’t while I was wresting with designing my story to fit around my original character (sometimes you have to cut loose what you thought was a great idea if it can’t support its own weight).

Stories that are tight have logical, plausible Story Lines for each character. Ones that do NOT, leave huge holes that just can’t be explained and will at the least, gnaw at its reader, and at the most—annoy them. Yup, I’m one of those thinking types, the kind of person that Authority hates because I question everything. I want to know how and why things happen and if they don’t add up—I’m doing research.

Anyhow, I’m sure opinions will vary, but I’m using the Story Lines of my own characters to keep me on track with my scenes, from the FPP and the rest. I find that as I come up with scenes, the characters in the scenes will literally tell me what they would do in that scene, or if they wouldn’t even be in it.

That’s my Story Lines tool or idea. Anyone else want to add to it or modify it for their own use feel free. It works for me as in getting me unstuck from writing scenes, checking for relevance and realism, and it revealed to me what the actual story was within all the characters Story Lines.

Thanks, Kerry Boytzun

Suzi Quaif November 25, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I sometimes question if I’m a writer, I don’t get paid and the last time I wrote a plot and chapter outline that’s what they remained. I have a clear idea of the characters and where I want the story to go then aim at the point in the horizon, pull the trigger and stay with it until its done, reviewed, edited, proofread, edited, brewed and edited again.

Over the years I’ve studied the skill of writing (don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt its a skill, nor do I think I’m a natural born literary guru who has nothing to learn) but writing is a creative process. I read what writers have to say about their writing processes and have thought that I must write by the power of pure arrogance alone, so am justified in questioning my literary status.

I agree with Rachel that writing comes from having something to say and is carried to a conclusion by a belief in what you’re saying. I certainly don’t think I could write a word if I didn’t have some measure of passion for the story and characters. The process would be like pulling teeth.

I read the article reassured that having a chaotic mind isn’t necessarily a crime against literature.

Larry Brooks November 25, 2012 at 9:43 pm

@Suzi – beautifully stated. I’d say stop doubting that you’re a writer, embrace it, because it’s obvious. Thanks for contributing. Larry

Robert Jones November 26, 2012 at 10:39 am

Hi Kerry…and others,

First off, I would like to say that Kerry has a valid point in that writing, or any creative endeavor, is a combination of planning and subconscious (muse) inspiration. Even a meticulous planner has to step back from time to time and figure out where they are going next, and that can often be when the muse steps in and gives us an idea. But what do you do when the muse is silent?

For me, I believe in nudging the muse, rather than waiting long periods for the next idea to drop. I’ll sit and write lists of all my options…often writing down twenty or thirty ideas until a fresh one comes along. Yes, this still might take me several hour, or even a day or so at times, but it’s still more expedient than twiddling my thumbs and waiting. The physical act of writing these ideas down, no matter how cliched the first ones seem, gets all that stale junk off the top of my head and allows me to stretch myself toward better, less cliched, notions.

I’m also coming from an arts background, and will therefore echo Michael’s statements. All art-forms require planning, a rough sketch for a drawing, a base melody for a symphony…so why do writers feel this craft is somehow different? It isn’t. If anything, a story the length of a novel is even more complex because you have to go back and read through the words of a lengthy draft. And 80-100K words takes a lot longer to take in and decide if all the parts are working than a line drawing, or painting on a canvas that can be viewed in its entirety at a glance.

Give your writing the same respect that you would give any of the other arts. Take a little time to learn, to practice. If you love it, it won’t seem like work when you see the gradual progress you are making. Too many people believe they can write automatically, or because they got an “A” in high school English, or because they are a lawyer and so many lawyers have made money writing fiction (I knew someone who fit the latter). And self publishing ebooks have made it all too easy to launch your story into the world. But how many people are actually making money doing that?

It’s a very small percentage. Most are too anxious, and therefore produce hack work.

@ spinx and Kerry

Aside from Stephen King’s book, “On Writing,” are there really numerous books telling writers it’s better to start with a plot first? Also, the reason Kerry mentions seeing so many stories where characters don’t seem to fit in is because they started with a plot (concept) and spent little time making their characters believable. It doesn’t work.

Most of the great stories, and writers, put character first. And the plot extends from that character’s goals, quirks, and life’s circumstances. Certainly you can come up with a killer concept first…but if you can’t figure out a way to make the life of the characters, their goals, desires, lead them up to the point in their life where your story is taking place…then you’ve dropped them into happenstance, and hack writing will be the end result in spite of how amazing your concept.

You can’t escape planning. You cant escape creating characters that become an integral part of your story. At least most can’t. But again, we are talking about the very few who are either very lucky, or learn to fake it extremely well. In which case, if you’re very fortunate and become one of these lucky fools, you’ll end up with shallow stories that will become a shallow experience. Or, as Kerry points out, your readers might ask why the characters were so cardboardy, maybe even think you had a good idea, but executed it rather poorly.

It’s up to you. And the odds become greater against you the more you play with blind luck. You might think you’ll beat the odds and be the next Stephen King, but wait…didn’t King at least have enough of a degree to teach high school English? Sounds to me like even the most praised of the pantsers had at least some training in structuring sentences and paragraphs to forge a viable foundation for his writing.

Kerry Boytzun November 26, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Hi Robert

Great points.

Okay, here’s how I get my Muse going from being silent (I believe the Muse is actually our Higher or Larger than Life Self…Soul in religious parlance)–this will have to be something that INTERESTS my Muse–not “me”…hence it better be GOOD to wake the Muse outta the bed.

Step 1: Find a “scenario-situation-subject” that needs to be told.
I’m interested in stories that are kept secret and will be provocative. Erin Brockovich’s story for example. Or you create a story that is an allegory for truth, such was the lore of Michael Crichton. Where I’m going with this is I think about something in the world that is really getting under my skin (makes me lose sleep), and that needs to be changed (fixed). For me this would be something that affects us all (Geo-Engineering for example) but for others it may be a more personal experience they had as a child growing up in school or something they witnessed–something that was WRONG.

Step 2: Imagine what kind of people are in this “situation”. I’ll listen to music that stimulates me, gets me in the right MOOD for this kind of setting. For me, it’s not about the characters at first. A character is just a human, a person, or a being. What is that character doing that’s interesting or being done to him? For me that doesn’t work BUT IF I start thinking about all the big “crimes” in life that people are getting away with (poisoning the Gulf of Mexico with oil-a-rama), bailing out banks with YOUR money and watching them KEEP it instead of loaning it out)–find something that RILES YOU UP. Looking for the next Peter Parker who’s going to fly instead of crawl walls–ZZZZZZ. Another Harry met Sally movie? If it won’t keep you up at night, it will NOT wake your Muse up to play either. Yes I rant, and it’s the ranting I want you to embrace within–that’s a STORY worth telling.

Anyhow, I get my Muse interested with something that gets me EMOTIONAL, preferably pissed off–and then I just “stare at the idea”, with music on, and “wait” for my Muse to start making things happen. It’s like I’m watching a movie still shot and the Muse eventually starts the camera, making the motion happen.

If I find my Muse silent, I suspect it’s just not “engaged” yet. Emotion should wake it up, or anything to get the mood going. I believe the key is how compelling the entire premise-idea for the story is.

However, I’ve noticed that sometimes I am flat and don’t feel like writing. So I’ll just start moving the writing forward and after at most 10 minutes, it seems my Muse wakes up and gets involved.

Again, if the Muse won’t get involved–is the story stuck itself because it’s boring? Is it boring because it’s not Relevant? Can you change the scene so it’s not boring or just get rid of it?

I find that many stories and movies have totally lost the art of sticking to what’s relevant. Think of relevance as if you’ve got the bad guy on the witness stand and you’re the prosecutor. You have to ask questions that are relevant to the crime and how you’re going to convict him. What I’m trying to say is how to take relevance seriously–”Just the facts, Ma’am.” When your boss asks why you were late for work–you should respond with only what’s relevant.

Gotta run….

Robert Jones November 27, 2012 at 9:36 am

Kerry,

Interesting points. I’ve been fascinated with the way the subconscious (or higher) mind works for years…and have tried various mental tricks to access it over the years.

During my art career, there would be those days that I would seem to wake up feeling good about myself, career, life in general, and those days I would sour through my work without even seeming to try. I would do my best work while being in “The zone,” as one of my creative partners used to call it. But we couldn’t sum up such moods on a daily basis.

I’m sure that practice and proficiency of skill had a lot to do with it. The confidence factor that leads to all amateurs turning professional would be at its peak on those days. I think it’s probably a fine line between going to that part if the creative zone and ego. It’s what some have termed the singer and the song becoming one.

However, this was an emotional high, a really great feeling. It had nothing to do with being pissed off. I’ve spent much of my career doing it the way you mentioned above, and that eventually lead to days wher taking that angry mood into my creative zone would just perpetuate it. Then I would spend all day, or even several days, dwelling on whatever issue irked me.

Is there a balance between the anger and the really great emotional high? I think both are effective for getting into the mood, and certainly one has to get into the character’s head emotionally when facing his fictional problems…much like an actor gears up for a turbulent scene, or role, by putting themselves through an emotional recall of something in life that made them feel similar. On the other hand, the good feeling zone seems to put all these things into place like magic. If I could bottle that, or develope a formula for getting there, I would be a rich man indeed. And I’ve been attempting to create these days from a standpoint of really enjoying the work as much as possible and make it a joy rather than putting myself through an emotional wringer to wake the muse.

Meantime, most of us face the middle ground on most days where we simply have to dive in and move the work forward. And though people hate rules in general, most newbies to any of the arts needs to find a mentor, of sorts. Someone who can show them the techniques that have been around for decades so they can skip those years of attempting to reinvent those wheels on their own. Thats probably the best advice I can give those who are caught up in the recent thralls of self publishing. It’s true that no one can really teach a person to write, or draw, it’s something that’s either a burning desire inside you, or it isn’t. But learning the tools and techniques that are available to you will help to sharpen your skills. And that can become a light that shines a light into those dark areas, or gives you a point of reference to recall when you get stuck.

This is a great site that has helped to sharpen my structure skills. And for those who find it difficult now, or just don’t quite get it…believe me, you’ll find yourself coming back to it regardless of how unformulated you believe your writing should be.

Meantime, if you want to discuss the higher mind and mental gymnastics further ( or to a greater depth), I can email you later in the week, if you like. I enjoyed reading your posts and it would seem we come to the creative table with similar ideas. Maybe we can share a few thoughts in hopes of finding that higher ground more often.

Athena Grayson November 29, 2012 at 8:42 am

I’mma be up front with everybody and come right out and say it–I’m a Pantser. Most of the books on writing out there are sort-of geared towards Plotters. But this Pantser read them anyway, because what I’m really doing when I’m “pantsing” it is Discovering my Story through drafting. For pantsers, the act of putting down on paper (or pixel) as the case may be) is Manifesting a Possibility of Story. I need to manifest that possibility through writing it, for whatever reason. Sometimes there just ain’t no gettin’ around it–if I want to hear what the Girls (or Guys) in the Basement toss up from my subconscious or the place where my Muse lives, I gotta go through the motions, and it is what it is. I accept that part of my process and (a little NLP here) I trust that I can get from start to finish within that process.

What Story Engineering does for the engaged Pantser is it gives your Girls in the Basement that framework to toss into the mix that they’re churning while your conscious mind is occupied elsewhere, so that the stuff they throw up in your “discovery mode” is better-refined into storymaking material. If I’m building a story, instead of my Girls throwing up clay, straw, and fire, Story Engineering is at work down there with them, and they throw up bricks (usually at my head).

My Girls don’t throw up walls or rooms already pre-configured from down there. Maybe sometime in the future, they will, but they aren’t now, nor have they ever, and I can’t depend on them changing. I work with what I’ve got. But adding into that raw material a framework like Story Engineering (and for what it’s worth, SE explains concepts that are as old as storytelling itself in a way that clicked for me a lot better than anything else out there–it’s not the raw material that’s new, it’s the groundbreaking way it’s presented).

Bottom line is that even if you can’t fill out your Beat Sheet when you first decide to write your story, even if you can’t fill all 4 boxes with each and every scene in logical order, even if you can’t pinpoint exactly the pinchpoints, lynch-points, and midpoints right away…there’s good work going on in your subconscious after having absorbed some story engineering.

And if you want a little free advice on a trick to try bubbling that up, try doing something that is not writing or typing or reading with your hands. Take up knitting or needlepoint or wood-carving. Especially if it has patterns or counting involved. You’d be surprised at what bubbles up from your mental basement when your conscious mind is busy counting crochet stitches. Not only do you get over your writing-stuck, you might just get a sweet hat in the process. :D

Larry November 29, 2012 at 10:14 am

@Athena — love your comment, thanks for contributing. Like your website, too, hope others will check it out (http://athenagrayson.com/blog/). You may know, I’ve shifted and softened on my view of pantsing, which used to be myopic, and now almost entirely centers on what you describe here: it’s a viable “search for story” process. And, as you say, the more you know about story architecture, the more fruitful that (or any) process. In fact, I feel so strongly about this that the original title of my next writing book (which comes out in June from Writers Digest books, called “Story Physics”) was, in fact, “The Search for Story,” with a lot of space devoted to just this topic: pantsing as a viable search mode. They changed the title (a good thing, because the book is broader than just that), but it’s a central theme and a valuable realization. Thanks again, come back anytime (swap guest posts, perhaps?). Larry

Robert Jones November 29, 2012 at 10:31 am

Larry,

It’s good to know your views are ever evolving. And though I can’t pants something as large as a novel without a roadmap, I have had times when I tried to plan so heavily that by the time I arrived at the first draft, it seemed more like I was transcribing notes rather than doing anything spontaneous with most of the writing.

A very good writer/teacher by the name if Sol Stein said that a scene-by-scene plan is important, but one should only list the main action, or purpose, of each scene, describing what takes place in just a few brief lines. That way the subconscious mind still has room to play and discover during the actual writing process.

It’s a plan that seems to work best for me, but I’m always trying new things to keep the planning stages fresh.

Kerry Boytzun November 29, 2012 at 10:40 am

@Robert Jones: good comments. Email me whenever ya like.

Regarding strengthening one’s connection to their Muse (Intuition, higher Self, Soul, The Girls, Team):

I’d love to be able to speak live on this subject. I can get my Muse (Self) to put input in almost immediately. It’s pretty much “on-line” like being plugged into the Internet. It wasn’t always like this but there was a process for me to get the Self integrated with me live.

Here’s a brief story on how I got my Self (Muse) to go “on-line”:

I was undergoing intense NLP training in Vancouver, BC back in 91. Back then I thought I wanted to be like Tony Robbins, at least what I saw of him on TV and his books, etc. I was total “mental acuity”. NLP’s model, at least at that time, didn’t endorse an Intuition. Many people today still don’t. “It’s talking to yourself and that’s CRAZY!” Anyhow, my Mum passed away in 92 and that shook me up. That’s when I put all the NLP stuff I was designing on to the shelf and went in the opposite direction to the “Wu Wu” industry.

I took up a “Channeling” course with a group of people. I found that I could do it fairly well. At one point the leader was asking me questions that I was using NLP to come up with the answer (which would take several minutes) and she stopped me and just asked me to “go inside and demand the answer”. Call it learning to “Know” through your inner Sense. Of course using that route, my Intuition gave me the answer instantly.

To give another example, I had a friend in my 20s who told me one day that there wasn’t always an answer or reason for everything (I can get annoying in looking for why things happen…) and that I should accept that. Well I never have. What I didn’t tell her, but is true, is that if Tony Soprano put a gun to your head and wanted the truth right now–would you be waffling on the answer or saying there’s no reason for why you really did something? In other words, if your DESIRE to know something is important enough to you…worth dying for… then you can get connect to your Intuition, Muse, whatever. You can’t connect to it with an ambivalent attitude.

Let me tell a fable of sorts I heard once on this: There was a young man who wanted to learn from the Wise Sage all he knew. The Sage told the young man he lacked desire to know–he didn’t WANT it enough…the man just wanted the knowledge like another gadget to his collection. The young man begged the Sage to explain what WANT was as he declared he wanted the knowledge very intensely. In response, the Sage tells the young man to follow him out into the ocean waves (they were on the beach discussing this). They both go out into the water until they’re about waist high and the Sage has them halt. The Sage tells the young man that he is going to show him his first lesson on WANT and tells him to look down at the water. The Sage, who is no wimp, grabs the young man and forces his head down into the water. The young man thrashes around, and begins to panic as he needs air. The Sage keeps him underwater just as the young man starts to run out of air and lets him go. The young man staggers to the shore and falls on the beach, coughing and spitting up water. He looks at the Sage like he’s crazy and asks why he tried to drown him. The Sage smiles and says “When you want something in your life– as much as you wanted the air to breath–and you knew if you didn’t get it you would die–THEN you will begin to know what the meaning of WANT is”. And that is when I know you are SERIOUS.

To connect to one’s Intuition (Self) and bring it on-line, one has to be SERIOUS. That’s the level of intent. It can’t be like one who went and bought meditation CDs and believes that playing them will connect them to something, the universe, etc. Sorry, but I think those are all crap. Your Self IS your-Self, and only by WANTING to connect to it, like it’s the air that will save your ass under the water–will you connect and build a relationship. Have to be SERIOUS about it.

This level of seriousness can be seen in interactions with children and parents where one will defeat the other in a battle of wills with the victor being the one who wanted it MORE. Was Serious. It’s not about yelling and screaming. This is where the dog whisper commands a dog because he’s serious. AND he has connected to that Dog’s spirit.

At this point many may accuse me of rambling and getting “chaotic”. No, it’s because I have met many over the years who “wish” they could talk to their Intuition but were never serious about it.

Okay, moving on, back in 96 I heard about this lady who was allegedly channeling a benevolent entity to help others. (BTW anyone who thinks channeling is bogus ought to consider they can call their friend on a piece of plastic that has no wires–it’s MAGIC). So figured that if this lady could channel whatshisface then I could channel something or someone. I decided to channel my Soul (Self, Muse…).

I sat in a chair with the lights off at night and pretty much demanded that my Soul talk to me. Say something. Oh sure, my mind would say (say means think) things like Kerry you’re an idiot…what would your folks think of you? You’re making all this up…blah blah….the place needs to be cleaned so get off your butt out of the chair and start up the vacuum. Just to be clear, you need to be able to discern the difference between your mind “chatting”, with your mental aspects “thinking”–and “hearing your Intuition talk to you”.

I just can’t stress that last sentence enough. That’s worth all the money in the world, because if you can’t tell when your SELF is calling you–you’ll never answer or take it seriously and back to SLEEP you’ll be like most of the humans on this Earth…Zombieland.

Okay back to the chair: I’m sitting for maybe 10 minutes or so as I had learned in the channeling classes that shutting your mind chatter was as simple as out-lasting it. You just wait until you shut up pretty much. That and you keep an ear out for something that–well it just doesn’t sound “like a thought”. Frankly, when your Intuition calls it will seem like someone in the next room is calling you. It won’t be by name but it will be something that you didn’t think of.

My Self called me after about 10 minutes, at least that’s when I became aware of its voice (it’s a sensation of sorts, and it seems very much like a thought EXCEPT there’s no way I could have thought it–it came out of left field…unexpected). One more thing: one’s Self or Intuition is a very very soft voice. It will not shout above the din of your mind’s chatter. It may be quieter.

Okay, so I’m sitting in the chair and I thought I heard something like “are you there?” Or maybe it was “I’m here…what do you want?” I think it was more like the latter. Here’s what I did: I did NOT go “alright, it’s my Intuition, let’s get rich…blah blah.” No, what I did was I stayed silent but “tracked” the source or direction of the thought-voice. I knew I didn’t think it. Someone or something else did (I had channeling experience and could tell the difference).

Here’s how I tracked the source: have you ever been in a pitch black room sitting with someone else, and you are both being quiet (separate chairs) but you can “sense” where they are in relation to where you are? If you can’t, then you need to strengthen your senses–it’s like muscles in the gym…use them or they get real weak.

I tracked the thought-feeling as coming from behind me over my right shoulder. To this day that’s where it’s coming from. It’s like my Muse is standing behind me, she has her hands on my shoulders, and is whispering in my right ear.

I replied back to the thought-voice with a “where are you?” to re-track the source. This goes on for a few minutes, kind of like being on stage testing out your microphone.

Finally we start to converse a bit, with me asking who are you, and getting back an answer something to the effect of “your team”, but we’re you and does it matter what name we go by? To me it didn’t. My Self asked what I wanted (there it is…want. remember the ocean!). I said I wanted to get their wisdom in order to evolve (mature my psyche–grow up more, get wiser). The answer was essentially “finally! Maybe there’s hope for this lifetime… ”

My Self can be a character of many types.

Over the next few months I would ask questions when I had a quiet moment and wait for the response. I would then ask clarifying questions and more information would come. But the COOLEST thing EVER was when my Self would begin to start a lecture or seminar if you will…information would just come pouring into me that I sure as heck knew wasn’t my mental thoughts. No, I was plugged into something-someone that told me things that I had no idea of, and was way smarter or elegant than I ever was. Yes, I’m cleaver and have a very high IQ but it ain’t nothing compared to the power of one’s Intuition. This is why the so called geniuses or gifted people just kind of chuckle when asked how they think stuff up (if they’re honest). They were just the vessel for their Muse.

Time goes on and after about 90 days in 96 I go “on-line” with my Self and have never left it. Of course I am always talking to it, and after about 6 months my Self would be riding shotgun as I would be working doing whatever and then it would interject its ideas. It no longer needed to be asked!

Over the years the voice has gotten stronger but not as much. Other things have occurred where I can sense things and events, find lost car keys, etc. I can find lost things like crazy. Probably should be looking for buried treasure.

With writing, as I’ve written above in my comments, I have to be writing about something my Muse-Self is interested in. See, we live multiple live times…LOTS of them. This whole ruse that’s pushed on people with you have one life to live and if you’re LUCKY, after you die you’ll really have a nice life–that’s a control mechanism to keep you from connecting with your Self…asking questions and, heck just maybe–living a life on Earth that doesn’t require working a slave job to make crap that zombies run out and buy on Black Friday while the world’s ecosystem is being poisoned to death as fast as possible.

Think multiple lifetimes and that you’re coming BACK, Jack! Back to this sphere that you’ve ignored and let the crazy people destroy in the name of “progress, science, civilization…etc.”.

Your Muse has different interests in what you do…as in the Meaning.

Only one way to find out and that’s to get your Muse “on-line”. The way we were as children until it was beaten out of us, either physically or through conditions (vaccines target it as well).

That’s all for me now…yeah I write long but I’m SERIOUS about this stuff. Oh, and I didn’t bother to edit it…gotta run.

Robert Jones November 29, 2012 at 11:47 am

@ Kerry

Will definitely email you. And you are quite correct about this. Many experienced writers will mention having imaginary conversations with friends, departed loved ones, or even imagine talking to their favorite celebrities to tap into the kind of inner thinking you’re talking about. And this is nothing new when you’ve done a bit of research into the subconscious mind. Robert Louis Stevenson, whenever he needed money, belived he would talk to brownies, who would give him his next story. Crazy? Or is that inner thinking he used responsible for why he is still in print today?

This has to be the most off-beat Story Fix thread so far. But the next time you run into a wall in terms of your story, just try sitting quietly and imagine you are talking to a person you believe is very wise…real, or imaginary. Be patient with yourself, relax, get out of your own way. The best time to do this (at least in the beginning) is early in the morning upon rising, or late at night before sleep, when the mind is more relaxed. Quite often you’ll be surprised at the answers to the questions you pose.

B.D. Knight December 10, 2012 at 5:52 am

Story Engineering and Story Fix are excellent additions to any writer’s collection. Personally though, I don’t think it’s the end all. It’s ridiculous when people, particularly those who comment on Amazon and have learned it’s easy to be a critic, criticize the book because maybe they don’t get it. But it’s also ridiculous when people criticize writers who have different ways of writing a story.

There’s too much do it my way or the highway mentality among some authors. Fortunately there are other writers who tell you to thoroughly learn the craft. Learn how to craft a story. Learn what all stories must have. Then take what you’ve learned and write the best way that suits you. Can you imagine if Stephen King had set down to write and others bashed him and told him that’s not the way you do it so he figured maybe they’re right? So he quit.

The idea is to encourage and not discourage. Hopefully those who can teach writing continue to do so and to give us their tips. But hopefully they don’t say this is the way you do it and if you do it differently you’ll never succeed. I’m not one that would listen to someone who said that but there are many people who would.

Llewellin RG Jegels December 10, 2012 at 6:30 am

Fascinating post to kick off this thread and great comments. ALL insightful. ALL contributing to my journey and the puzzle we choose to call: story…

After reading and researching for almost 5 years, now I feel I am ready to write my story. Some aspects are still not entirely clear-cut but I feel READY, if that makes any kind of sense. I have tried to synthesise the elements of story from story itself by reading as widely as possible yet finding myself no closer to what constitutes “story” because, in my opinion, story accommodates so many forms.

I think eventually I began to grasp more clearly what some of the important elements are, or perhaps should be, particularly after also reading some decent books on the craft. The risk, in my opinion, is when teachers try to create a “theory of everything” in writing (a Dramatica fault in my opinion.) I think there is good writing and just plain bad writing (in teaching books as well) and I can spot the difference. I think there is a tipping point of sorts in story elements. By that, I mean if one blends, at the barest minimum, certain universal story elements in a certain way one gets a “readable” book. Readable, in the sense that it is satisfying to most readers. And, the certain way of blending is of course the writer’s style, which one can’t teach.

I think here Larry’s book has helped me crystallise critical story elements and story junctures.

Therefore, we try to incorporate what we consider to be good, and what writing teachers consider to be good, story elements. Yet no one can write the story for us no matter how well acquainted we may be with the story elements. In that sense, we have to go on our OWN hero’s journey and let the chips fall as they may.

I understand why pantsers sometimes fear planning: the risk of killing off the story before they’ve even started writing it. The desire to write the story sometimes diminishes in an inverse ratio to the amount of information one uncovers about the story, perhaps to the point where one says f..k it, what’s the point of writing this story-I know too much about it in my discovery process that I have no more driving NEED to tell the story! Exactly WHEN one reaches that point is HARD to say. I suspect it differs from person to person.

So, in my opinion, we have to find that happy medium between discovering enough about our story to write coherently and structurally sound stories, driven by a compelling desire to WANT to tell the story but not know SO much about the story before we write that we lose the desire to write it…

I think many of my stories will not be written simply because I don’t feel THAT strongly about the story even though my story concept, theme etc may be quite sound. I just don’t have the compelling drive to WANT to tell the story anymore. The desire has left me. I don’t feel guilt about that. Perhaps a sense of loss.

The desire to tell my current story is my fuel to complete it. I am ready to tell this story…

Robert Jones December 14, 2012 at 11:38 am

Hi Llewellin,

You’ve made some very good points. I think going over any story to the point where you experience burn- out is a mistake. You have to know when to take a break. Or know when research becomes too much and begins to take on a life of its own. You also have to understand that each level in creating a story presents a new discovery process.

The act of writing a story, finding the right words that sing on the page, this is the greatest part of the process for me. It’s all about getting the words right in the end…even in an intricately planned story. I liken it to the production of a play, or movie. The writer now sits in the directors seat. And yet, the characters, once they start speaking before you can sometimes add a great deal.

I believe this is where many have stated their characters come alive and try to take over their story. Or, if you prefer, an actor attempts to find motivation, or reads the character a bit differently than you imagined. I believe what really happens at this stage is that you get to know your characters even better after spending time with them, seeing them do their thing on the stage you’ve built.

No one can think of everything before sitting down to write. And sometimes you discover you may have forced a character to do something they really wouldn’t do. Likewise, you might find some of your players need a bit more motivation to do what needs to be done in order to keep your readers disbelief suspended from the ceiling of your reality.

Nothing is ever quite finished. Not until you allow it out the door to be viewed publicly. The planning stage is to make sure things hold together and stay focused on what is important for the story, and only the story, as a whole. It’s very easy to get caught up in research mode. I’ve been there. Then when it came to the actual writing, and I found that something I spent weeks on only took up five minutes in the book, and I knew I was into overkill.

Knowing what your subject matter is can be very important. So don’t think that I’m underplaying that aspect. But if you’re writing fiction, it all becomes about one thing, no matter the concept…and that’s human nature. Everything gets filtered through your characters and their perceptions. Going too far outside that realm is either a history lesson (non-fiction subject) or could sound like it’s coming from the author instead of the characters speaking.

Hope this helps.

Leon Davis January 11, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Luck favors the hard worker? Too vague? Luck favors the believer? Too imprecise? Luck favors the educated? Wrong..? not always. Luck favors the persistent? Luck favors the Lucky.
Let’s define Luck, happiness. “When things go your way…”

My way is not always profitable, doesn’t always bring lasting happiness. Luck and Happiness are most times elusive and always, it the long run…Mythical.
Leon

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