The Parallel Universes in Writing

Thursday, August 07, 2008

I'm not sure how to start this post but suspect it going to turn into a ramble, and I'll miss a bunch of related points I wanted to make.

This is about finding the story.

A lot of writers are rolling their eyes already.

You don’t ‘find’ a story. You craft it, build it, plot it, tell it, and write it. You don’t find it.

It isn't floating out there in outer space, waiting for you to turn your authorial telescope in that direction and discover it. It’s not some lump on the ground that if you mosey along in the right direction you’ll trip over it.

And yet, for me, in many ways, this is exactly it. Sure I do the other stuff (crafting, etc) but only after I hit that main vein of story gold.

You know how you can have one story idea or premise, but give it to seven different authors and they’ll execute it in seven different ways and come up with vastly differing and unique tales? I believe almost the opposite when it comes to individual story ideas and authors.

I think that each idea has one true story and innumerable possible stories, and like that quirky abstract math equation/graph that comes close to the axis but never actually touches it, the true story is almost impossible to nail down, but if you’re lucky, you can narrow range down to a hairs breath. Furthermore the father away a writer is from the true version of the story *in the execution*, the harder that story is to write.

And the closer you are the easier it is. The pieces fall in place more quickly. Hidden layers and conflicts reveale themselves, dialogue flows, and some point you sit back and think ‘I wrote that?’ or ‘Where the hell did that come from?’ It’s being in the right spot, or getting that right angle, to hit the mark as close as possible. Just a fraction to the left or right, and you can’t even see the damn target, just know you're/it's in the general vicinity.

This is why you get false starts, whole chapters that have to get cut, those wonderful darlins you need to ditch, characters that morph in personality, age, profession, and those wonderful epiphanies that you never planned on, that turn the story in a oompletely different direction, etc. They’re all sign-posts that move you closer to the heart of the story. The true story.

(I know I shouldn’t be using the term ‘true’ story, and yet, I don’t what else to use that would be more appropriate.)

Sure you can push through — and this is where, experience, skill/talent, perseverance, and all those other writerly tools come into play to save your bacon —with the version of that story you’ve settled on, but I contend that the closer you are to true story (the story version that needs to be told at this point, uniquely by you) the easier it will be write, the deeper the characterization, the richer the world-building, the more sparkly the dialogue, the more real those emotional moments—both small and pivotal.

Will stop talking out of my ass now.
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vanessa jaye said...

This post sort of makes it sound like one should sit around waiting for inspiration to strike, and that's not what I mean at all. Only that stories (for me) take a little time to marinate/stew and I need to stir the pot a bit, take a taste, adjust the seasoning, before the story is ready to be served(written).

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