The original posts are still in place, but I’m replacing the full output here (sans the final try at a first scene). This new version is slightly better laid out, in my view, but if you’d like to see it done another way, let me know. Cheers.
First, an intro: This is what I do when I have a bright spark of an idea but isn’t yet enough to be a story. The following is some of what I do BEFORE the first draft is written into the schedule. Doing these things before I write that first draft means the story can be written – as they say – in a flash of inspiration.
I also have to admit that, despite all the effort I put into the pre-writing stage, I don’t usually re-read it before I write the actual draft, and that’s because by the time I get there it’s as real as a story gets. I know them, all their thinking, all their games, all their desires. And … a warning: this is a long post, so maybe copy it to a document and peruse on a reader or tablet.
The Pre-Planning Story Process posts – go to whoa!
First, an Idea
Always, there’s a spark of an idea. It’s been on the backburner for a while, but as I’ve been having so much trouble staying online, I decided to play out the idea and how it becomes shaped for a story.
It’s a bit of fun, and one day may become a real story.
This is how my stories start life:
Two: Robbers, Roos and Roses
The number is where it sits on the list of ideas about Australian icons, and I was playing with titles with alliteration. It’s a fun way to get ideas.
Idea: she feeds (vegemite sammos) the big roo to keep him out of her roses, and when she’s robbed, bashed and about to be abducted, what happens? Who’s there to save her?
Where, When, Who – working on it.
OPEN: mulching the garden, half over the fence and then the favourite treat when he ambles up the steep side of the gully. The big boomer makes his noise and she drops the sandwich over the fence.
The water from her bath is trickling through the garden and draining down the slope. Green grass grows there, hopefully enough to keep the roos out of the fenced garden. She checks the fences, checks the stability of the steep-sided gully that occasionally floods. She’s been there a long time, knows the signs to look for.
And always the garden must be secured against the big boomer, who can leap tall fences like they’re no more than a twig on the ground (he leaps six foot fences without changing stride).
THEME: Don’t spoil the wildlife with special treats – they’ll never leave.
I know that will change, and I don’t write with the theme in mind as an overarching element in the early stages, so this will be a stop-gap measure until I find the real theme hidden in the subtext.
SETUP: Country life, garden marauders.
CATALYST: she’s expecting the regular delivery, but the kid turns up with escaped prisoners (2).
DEBATE: The baddies intrude – what to do about it? They want money, transport, food.
BREAK: she tells them the kid will be missed, tells them the store will call her – she thinks they’ll go.
B-STORY: they trash the joint, looking for loot, break the things she treasures more than money.
PINCH: they find the gun. One gets wounded when she fights them for it.
MID: tells them where the booze is – should she warn them how strong home-made is, or what she really uses it for? Nah.
AGAINST IT: get the kid out after they pass out – tell him the gully shortcut – watch out for the boomer – go OVER the ridge, even though it’s tougher, longer.
Don’t go along the main track. Go OVER.
PINCH: they ask where the kid is, bash her, but she doesn’t tell. They take her outside.
ALL IS LOST:
DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL:
BREAK: she points out the galley track – sees kids shirt on the trail.
Prep for finale: she packs food and drink – he makes her taste everything first. it works, the injured one stays, and he wants food, medicine – and he doesn’t get her to test any of it.
Showdown: the semi, the big boomer wants his treat. By the time the cops come, crooks happy to go back to prison.
end: the moral of the story. Country Life isn’t a quiet life, nor the easy life.
Further to that Idea
Is the next stage of the preparation. It’s the process of getting one of those little outline things for every character in the story.
Because if the writer doesn’t know why the character is in the story, and can’t understand why they would do it this way and not that way, then the reader won’t get the right feel for the character.
There is more than one character to a story even if it’s only the mirror image with a different view.
So, here’s the deal for the crooks view:
2: robbers, roos and roses
Idea: we broke away from the forced work programme me and Bob got better stuff to do. We need wheels, but there’s no one around. And then a kid comes along. He’ll know something. The kids on his own, but he doesn’t have a vehicle. We gotta get outta here, and fast. A couple hours is all we got. When we see the kids calling list of customers to get to, we know one of ’em has to have a vehicle. Uline genre: australiana gnu line where when who – space working on at.
Open: break away from the work party. Bracket open need to go into the story, only their back story, and only if it comes up. It may only be a single sentence. That’s life].
Theme: don’t run.
Set up:Country Life ain’t easy.
Catalyst: she’s expecting the regular delivery, but when the kid turns up with extras, she doesn’t seem too concerned. Is the old lady nuts? better and better.
DEBATE: we need supplies, change of clothes, and where she hid the keys to that bomb of a vehicle.
Break: a weapon. Even better. Now should give us the keys.
B-story:but gets shot in the shoulder. The old lady and the kids saw him, but he’s gotta get real help.
Pinch: but can’t run, he can’t even walk. The vehicle doesn’t have a battery. Go to the next farm and take one, quiet like.
Fun/games: she’s got booze.
MID: the food is it poisoned? You can’t trust old ladies who live alone in the country and talk to ruse.
Against it: fell asleep. She did drag us, but we’re not the usual.
Pinch: where is the kid? Beat the truth idea old lady.
All is lost: he’ll call the cops. Gotta go after him. Down the gully, through the mob of Roos. He can’t get too far, just a key.
Dark night of the soul\ lull:
Break: meet boomer, and he likes to have asemo everyday. Who’s got that samo? Payment doesn’t take no for an answer, chases all around the BlackBerry Bush is until trapped
Prep for finale: scream for help.
Showdown: the cops finally arrive. With an ambulance.
End: happy to get out of the country.
Maybe tomorrow, I’ll do one for the kid. I might make him a trainee for an Olympic sport, and he’s become friends with the old lady because she was a champion shooter in her day – has wings, potential. Each character in the story [all with a viewpoint, and the baddie/opposition] get one of these outline thingies [it’s a beat sheet, adapted for the way I do things], plus a few ideas on motivations and stakes and a family of verbs to make their metaphor.
It’s the fun bit before the serious business of writing it up into a readable story. It brings the people in the story close to real.
What Comes Next …
In the pieces that go into constructing a tall tale.
So far, I’ve done the basic outline/beat sheet for the old woman and the crooks, but why does the kid bring deliveries to her on a rural property?
It brought to mind that I have to consider who he is, what he wants (the kid, that is) and how she interacts with him, and why.
One part of the story has the crooks finding a rifle. Now, I could make that an ordinary rifle, but what if it was a rifle used by shooters in Olympic sports? That would be interesting.
So, I came up with a bit of background.
The old lady gets the deliveries because the kid’s trying to get enough money to buy a proper shooting rifle, and they’re expensive. Despite the exorbitant cost of the deliveries, she plays it up and invites him in every time, waiting for him to notice the books, the plaques, the photographs.
But, of course, it’s too soon in the story yet, and only when the crooks have trapped him does he take the time to look around.
What he sees is a picture of his dad, with this old woman (younger in the pics) and they both hold professional shooters rifles.
When the crooks find the gun-safe [where should it be hidden so that it’s a big deal? And complies with gun safety laws?], they ask what it is. The old lady says it’s a fire-proof safe.
Her will, of course. What else would she have [of value]?
They open the safe, and there’s the rifle. ‘what sort of rifle is this?’ and they mishandle it badly.
‘where are the rounds?’
Wrong sort of weapon, she tells them, but they don’t believe her, do they? A gun is a gun.
The kid, though, almost drops his jaw into the cellar. He knows what it is, he knows who she is now. This woman was his father’s mentor before … [work on that bit, too, make it emotional in terms of why the kid wants this so badly].
So, now I have the big moment with the crooks finding the gun and how it creates tension for all three main stories (old woman, crooks, kid).
The benefits of doing the preliminary stuff are finding out these things that make a difference to the end-state of the story.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll give the motivations for the crooks, and it’s not just to escape prison – everyone has a reason to do what they do, and every character in the story believes the story is only theirs and they are the heroes of their own story.
How does that sound?
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a pic of the specific rifle I had in mind, so that may take some more research.
Ah, How to Do That Next Bit
Further to the process of finding the story from an idea, I went on to think about the crooks and what they’re doing in the story. I needed their reason for being there.
It’s not a simple thing, although it looks as if it could be. They’re crooks, after all, and the quick and easy path would be to not think about it too much and just make them the baddies.
But, and a big one at that, there is the question of how their story is going to reinforce the main story.
It’s not about theme, not yet, but each story within the story needs to have a reason, and the best reason is to showcase the main story.
Could I find the start of a reason, an opening toward a theme, and therefore the convergence between these characters?
I wrote down a few things.
What is the question that only this story can answer? [that’s how to find where to end the story – when that question has an answer. The answer to the question is the resolution to the story. Using the MICE quotient is a good start to find where that question opens the story.]
Which then leads into another question: how does the effect of the opposition/antagonist represent one side of that question?
The woman and the boy – is it about competing? She wants to help him, but she wants him to ask.
Is the story about enabling? Enabling what? Does that lead to the crooks being disablers?
Didn’t sound right, or strong enough, or feel worthy of the time and effort.
Another question: in what way does the goal of the antagonist/baddie represent the opposite of the main character (as yet, I haven’t chosen whether the old lady or the boy will be the main character – there are other questions to be answered first, so I know who has the most change in their arc).
Ah, and why is there a ’roo in the story? What does his role have to do with either of the other two (characters)? What is he going to demonstrate as part of the picture?
Several hours later, several scribbles later, and no closer to a solid enough answer, I think maybe this story isn’t ready yet. If I can’t find the reason these groups are in the same story, the story needs more time to make itself known.
Lying in bed, half-asleep, not thinking about the story because I’ve slipped it to the back of the burner again, and there comes a niggle of a thought.
It’s about choices, isn’t it? Allowing (or not) others to choose the path, to see, to ask or offer.
She wants the boy to ask her for help, but she wants him to become more observant of the world outside his own desires. He has to see what’s there. The kid comes to the house every week, the photos are on the wall and yet he walks past them each time, never looks, never asks.
He needs to look beyond himself, to become observant. That’s his lesson, his arc. He has to choose this, and she can’t compel him or the whole reason for wanting to help him is gone.
The kid needs to know how to actively observe, and to take action based on observations. It’s not just about shooting or the rifle or the sport. A good eye can mean many things.
The crooks are all about taking choice away from others. They are observant, but in a manner that is only of benefit to themselves. They see, they take. They are the opposite of the old lady.
And ’roo? He’s a foil of her demonstration of observation. How? The way she checks the fences every day, the notes she makes on weather and season, and in particular, if there are any in-season does in the mob. That’s the important bit about the big boomer. And that he stays in the area for the patch of green grass the old lady makes with her bathwater runoff. Oh, and the vegemite sammo she gives him every day. He’s protecting his mob and his territory and taking payment for keeping other mobs off the fences.
And that’s how they tie together and reinforce the main story. That’s how they create resonance through each element of the story.
It’s about choices, and how they’re made/offered. Now, I can think about the backstory of the crooks.
And the Next Step in the Dance
Okay, it might not be. The next step could be the background for the baddies, but even if I leave that, there’s this other thing that needs to happen.
It’s called the action family for the main character (yes, I do all the main characters, but the MC gets first dibs, then the others are part of that action family – but from another perspective/view).
However, as I have yet to decide which of the two characters is going to end up being the MC, I’ll do a general verb family that could fit either the old lady or the kid.
Does anyone else do this?
Oh. Sorry. What is it?
It’s like a few verbs that indicate how the character is going to do stuff. For this story, and the issue of how to make choices, it needs a verb family that starts with a gentle action process then builds up to the bigger actions.
If the verb family is choose, what fits with that?
(BTW: these come from Activate: a Thesauraurus of actions & tactics for dynamic genre fiction Damon Suede).
Acquire, adopt, desire, fix, gather, grasp, hoard, invite, mark, pick, prioritise, secure, snag, source, stock, tap, strip, etc.
The opposing side of the actions: dismiss, ditch, exclude, ignore, refuse, reject, retard, squander, trash, waste (usually for the opposition, however it forms in the story).
This could start out the actions that define the character reactions to events and situations.
And this is the start. I’d need a few more to test exactly how that character is going to take action, move, fight back. And no one else needs to know this except me (and the character, of course0.
Story is about characters making decisions, acting, taking physical actions based on decisions (planned or otherwise; maybe I should send you to look at the FF&F page? No, I’ll do a rewrite of that, so stay tuned). In short, the character demonstrates agency and verbs are good for that.
I haven’t done the motivations (some conflict within the things that are important to the character) or ambitions or blindness (to faults), but sometimes those things come quite late in the getting to know the character stage. Once I have a rough outline, a bit of background, a dream, a problem, and how actions will happen, I can start working on the next stages as the ideas come (usually, when doing things other than writing, planning or researching – and sometimes, they just fly onto the page at the time I think about it).
There you have another stage that’s important to the way a character in the story happens.
And as to Where …
… in the world are we, specifically for this story?
Readers like to know where they are, where this story is, so they can orient themselves, so let’s lay open the map
That doesn’t mean explaining, dumping exposition, or describing everything about the world. Anytime the writer feels the need to explain makes the reader feel as if they’re being spoken down to, patronised. Don’t explain, but let them know where they are. Better yet, let the character experience the world for them. In the meantime, in the pre-planning stage, find the location and how it brings the story to life (and emphasises the theme, or the actions, or the sense of connection).
For this story (Robbers, Roos & Roses, remember), it needs to be a rural property so the mob of roos is a regular and unsurprising event. They’re there every day. That means not urban, not even in the outer sprawl of suburbs. It needs to be far enough away from the edges of somewhere, but because the kid makes deliveries, it also needs to be close enough that he can get there without a car.
Oh, then comes the problem of how he gets the deliveries to the old lady. That’s another reason the setting can’t be too far from a town. If the kid had a car, the crooks would just take it and this story would never happen.
Never let the impossible nor the unbelievable just happen because it helps keep the story going. The kid could be on a scooter thingy (more research on type, maybe a Honda 125cc road scooter – on its last legs!), or he could be on a bicycle (how would he get the groceries there fast enough? Okay, not a bicycle).
Anyway, the setting.
Not too close to town, not too far. Other farms not too far away, but not close. Not visible from the old lady’s house.
And there has to be a prisoner work release program close by. No, release is the wrong word, but (more research – see how the list of things to research pop up?) the type of program where prisoners are escorted to a place for a specific purpose. In this case, either close to a country town, or in a semi-rural area.
Oh, and the gully at the back of her house. That means it can’t be Western Australia. Why not? Not a common thing there; most places too sandy. They’re there, but not many, and not usually close to a town. They do have a country prison community that often uses prisoners in work placements, but not the gully.
Not South Australia. There are one or two places where it could be set, but they don’t do the release programs like that.
How about Victoria? I know lots of places in Victoria where there are good sites for this story. Most country towns have smaller farms and farmlets way off the main road but close to town, and with good, deep gullies. And lots of roos. Of course, there are lots of roos almost everywhere (the other day, a few roos wandered through the main square in the city – not kidding).
Not Ballarat, though. That might be a bit too close to the public transport hubs. The crooks wouldn’t need to do what they do if there’s good transport hubs nearby. However, there are lots of smaller country towns with the right landscape. Further west, I’m thinking. I’ll look into a few, or maybe to the north-west of Ballarat (I used to live in Bungeeltap, which is east-south-east of Ballarat, but I don’t want to get too close to home).
Right. Setting located.
An opening could start something like:
The flexi-fence outside the chook run needed a bit of fixing. Dee put the secateurs in the box and looked around for the wire-cutters. The big roo lifted his head over the hedge on the west side. She was late with his vegemite sandwich treat.
Because the kid was late with his deliveries. If she didn’t give the roo something soon, he’d get cranky and start demolishing the fence around the garden. Again.
How long did it take to get from [town name] to here? It was only ten kilometres, and the kid had never been late before. What if he’d broken down? That old scooter was too far past its prime to be reliable. What if he wasn’t coming? What if he’d been in an accident?
The big roo flicked his ears and grunted, his gaze on the road to the front. Dee followed the direction of his intent stare.
Dust rose along the long, cypress lined driveway.
That’d be the kid. Finally. She could sort the roo and fix the fence without worrying whether he’d eat her garden while she had her back turned. Dee dropped the tools into the box and washed her hands at the water tank.
And there’s a bit of setting, a bit of tension, a bit of feed-in to the story. And I found the old lady’s name. It started as Diana, but the Diana as huntress has been done to death, so now it’s Dee Ambrose (amber is a colour, so what colour medal do you think she might have won at the Olympics?).
And if I still can’t think of how to do the backstory for the crooks by tomorrow, I’ll do an interview with them. Which means, I need to give them names that suit them and their role in this story. And voices that suit who they are, what they do.
Not my voice, not my opinions.
Finally! The bits of info for the crooks pops up.
This story has crooks, baddies, antagonists, and I’ve been a bit lax in giving them a background. Every character needs a background to make their story as solid as the main character/s.
These crooks, I’ve decided, aren’t brothers. Not related by blood in any way. They have a stronger family. The family by choice.
There’s that word again. This story is about how we choose to choose.
Their family is the father who fostered the two boys (at different times) when the boys were in their early teens. Difficult kids, but he brought them into line. And into the family business. Which was crookery. No, it’s not a word. Until now, that is (oh, I looked it up! It is a word, a real word. Anyway, on with the bluff).
The wife died (was the fire an accident? Did she do it herself while in one of her wild, drunken moments? Fodder for another line of depth in the characters, if needed).
The father then called on his boys to support his enterprises, to become part of the whole. The choices he gave them were tough choices, but he treated them like adults, like real people. He gave them a sense of agency. They fell for it. Followed him through scary paths.
And while on the work party (‘cos all crooks end up in the clink sooner or later, we hope), one of the boys got a newspaper and saw the story about police hunting through an area for a dangerous criminal. Of course, it’s dad, and they know where’s he’s going, and what he’d need them to do.
Except they’re under guard, on the way back to prison, and they need to get there before the cops shoot dad. ‘Cos they will. He’s wanted for multiple murders this time.
The boys feel the obligation to rescue the only person who gave them the value of his wisdom. They don’t see the choices weren’t valid, but will they learn that? Who knows?
All in all, it’s coming together well.
The two main stories, protagonist and antagonist, will demonstrate the differences in how choices are offered, seen, accepted. How one side will ensure growth and commitment, and the other side will be obligation and punishment (exclusion as the threat).
And tomorrow, I’ll go into why the opening para I did earlier won’t be the final say on the opening of the story.
And no, I haven’t done an interview with the crooks yet. Sometimes, it’s hard to do. Not because I don’t know why they are who they have become, but because it’s too easy to see behind the mask.
That First Page
Remember that intro from earlier? Well, it’s not going to end up being those words, unless …
Yep, you guessed it – I have to make a decision.
The first part of the story is the most critical spot except the end, and that’s because they’re tied together. The beginning sets up a question that ends the story when the question has an answer. (see the MICE quotient for other forms of knowing what the opening posits and the ending needs to round it all out).
Yeah, I know. A bit esoteric. But that’s how it is. A story opens with a person who has a desire to get, do, become and it’s not going to be an easy path because there are blocks and troubles if they choose to pursue the path toward achieving that goal, and they must decide to step across the boundary of the time when they can leave it and walk away, or push ahead to get a definitive answer.
The main character wants something, but something else stands in the way, and the main character (MC) has to make a decision to fight for what’s desired. Gotta show agency, grit, determination (even if it’s hard, something never tried before – but the end result is worth it).
Simplified: Desire, Danger, Decision.
To know how much space I’ve got to lay that out means I need to know two main things:
How long the story will be, and who the main character is.
I need the length of the story to know how much detail and depth to use to get the story across in a clear, concise and coherent presentation.
The end of the story comes when the character gets an answer to that story question.
In the case of this story, it could be:
Will the kid ask Dee to mentor/train him?
Or it could be:
Can Dee show the kid how much he can learn with a bit of help, if he’s only willing to ask for it?
The general story background is about the crooks turning up unexpectedly and causing mayhem, and I’ve got the end as when the last crook is cornered by the roo in the blackberry patch in the ravine.
That’s not the real story, though.
The roo isn’t the main character. And the main character has to take action to achieve the answer to the story question.
With the two questions above, who would need to do what to answer the question/s?
Who is going to get what they deserve (the crooks story is easy to show the contrast to the main story), and how they get/earn it?
Will it be the kid? Or Dee?
No idea yet. Sometimes, these things take time to percolate, but if I don’t have the important pieces of the puzzle, then it’s not time to start the story.
Whose story is it?
What do they want?
Is what they want worthwhile?
I have the where and when, the why and what, almost got the who, but the how is a big tangle of net, knotted and twisty with weed and detritus.
What will happen next?
Who will move up to top billing?
I’ll let you know. Tomorrow.
The Deepening of the Need
A day or so away from the planning of the story, and I came up with the main thrust of the subtext.
The Kid (still nameless, but that will change before the outlining process) wants Dee to sponsor him; he wants her to give him money. That’s what he wants. What he needs is to forgive her (and himself) when he finds out that she wasn’t responsible for his father’s accident, regardless of what the locals say.
That means it will be his story, he will be the main character, and the first scene will be his POV.
Because the person who starts the story ends the story. The story question is the one attached to the main character, and the reader needs to know the story question within the first scene, preferably within the first few pages. Prior to that, it’s a sense of change coming, but not necessarily ‘the big question’ that takes a story to answer.
A story is: a character in conflict who struggles to resolve a problem.
The struggle is the plot – events and obstacles that need to be overcome, internal and external, to be able to move forward into the next stage of life. And these struggles have to be worth the journey. And they have to be relevant to the question. The question needs an answer by the end.
That’s what makes it worth the effort, the pushing forward. His want is strong, but he can’t be a winner until he makes unobstructed observations of reality without being influenced by the opinions of others.
Or I’ll think on it some more, but for the moment, this looks interesting and can create a lot of conflict between all the characters, the people in town, and it has a history and a future.
And now things are starting to come together, the weft and warp of the weave showing colours and patterns.
The Final (Almost) Starting Point
Now that the kid is going to be the MC, let me explain why. Yes, I call them main characters rather than any other label. Just habit, and stops any attempt at making them a Mary Sue (or a Gary Stu, the male version).
Anyway, back to the subject of the discussion.
What does it take to become the main character?
There are four main things for me (and probably millions of others, readers and writers alike):
- An interesting setting. The world thing. I need to know it well enough to enable the reader to experience that world and it has to be interesting enough that they can feel it, taste it, live in it (even all the bities).
- An active character. They have to want something badly and they need to be willing to do stuff to get what they want (hold your horses, haven’t got to the other half of this yet).
- The Goal. It has to be big enough to sustain the story. It has to be a worthy fight to get something that big. It has to be something with a high price.
- Lastly (and probably the most important) is Stakes. What is at stake for this person if they don’t get what they NEED from this journey? See the difference? They start with a WANT, but underlying that want is a bigger NEED, and they can’t achieve what they want until they have that need stick them in the nose with a good ol’ one-two knockout to show them the reality of the dreams and life.
The world (of this story) is interesting to me, and I know it well enough to situate these characters and this story in it, with a bit of push and shove from the beasties, baddies, and difficult terrain to make it more than just a backdrop. It will be real to me as I write it, and that should be easier for the reader (as long as I do an edit run just for the setting).
The kid has the dream of getting to the Olympics, but not just that. He wants to participate in the sport his father would have won a gold medal in – if he’d lived. That’s the WANT (external goal).
He’s also doing the hard yards to get extra money. Some of that isn’t all that honest, and he thinks to use emotional manipulation on Dee to get money out of her for the big-ticket items. He’s an active protagonist, who may have a skewed view at the beginning of the story.
The Goal is to get to the Olympics (external goal) and prove to himself (internal goal) that he’s as good as his dad.
The Stakes become: his life, in the first instance (getting away from the crooks – the foil of his desperate tactics in pursuit of his goals and the choice of action to get there), then his skills (which includes the equipment and paying for a trainer, etc.), then his internal self-concept: will he finally understand that it’s not just about his dad, that he can’t blame the world for an accident, and that the choice to pursue a goal isn’t about proving yourself to others (all the things he thinks the world expects of him), but to temper and forge the person hidden under the mask.
So, all in all, that’s the beginning of the background to the story. After this, I go on to do an outline. Sometimes by the Big Moments in the story (the break, middle, and black moment, with the end result to the story question – if I’m sure what the question is). Sometimes, I do a scene summary, sometimes a chain of events (physical plot actions/reactions), and sometimes with a short and rough synopsis (all of them with a few internal knockout moments – gotta do it).
Knowing why every character is in the story helps make the story grow from a strong foundation. If they have reasons to do what they do, motivations to push beyond the first bump in the track, then they become interesting and we want to know how they deal with what gets thrown at them.
Well, that’s what I think – what about you?
And, as an exercise in honest, I have to say that most of the above (in the pre-planning process) comes from time away from the workplace and in the headspace. Physical actions that don’t take a brain to accomplish (gardening, washing windows, cleaning the oven/larder/cupboards/shed, etc.). All the strings come to make their appearance during those moments because takes a bit of thinking time, away from the screen/blank page, to understand the why’s and why nots of each character – including Roo (his motivation is that Vegemite sandwich – and he’s not happy when he doesn’t get his regular lunch treat).
Did you notice that the story bits at the end don’t match the initial planning stages? That’s what happens. That’s why this process is so useful, despite what appears like extra time taken – finding the depth to the story is worth the time and effort, because it improves the characters connections to each part – they are all the heroes of their own story, and knowing how they got to that belief makes it much, much easier and faster to write the first draft (even if it also changes quite dramatically from what looks like the final stage of this pre-planning! That’s story for you – always wants to go deep and meaningful).
And the main reason – it’s all fun!
7 thoughts on “The Story Process Posts – Again”
Cage this has to be the longest post that you ever wrote and although I don’t know how many words it contains, I realize that you wrote it to get yourself organized. It is full of good ideas, but it is way too long for most people to read.
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That’s okay, Jim. I had to rewrite it because I accidentally deleted the first version during a mad housekeeping session, and it gave me a good reason to learn how to retype it with the use of one hand only (as the right hand is still in a cast). It took ages to write, so I can imagine it takes ages to read. I did recommend copying it to a reader, which is what I’d do in a similar situation.
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You are so organized about your writing, which proves that you are a very serious writer.
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It’s a never-ending passion!
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My process is a lot messier. A good beginning and then fumbling through to the end, which I think of even before the beginning. But it means a lot of time wasted making changes after writing tens of thousands of words. And the middle may still end up mushy.
On the other hand, doing all that prep work may very well discourage me from writing the thing at all!
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It’s actually a lot of fun playing with people’s lives, giving them reasons and excuses, getting to know them and everything they think they know — and then twisting the knife until they figure out who they really, really are.
Like all processes, it works when it works and everyone finds their own ways to make it work.
I didn’t actually mention that the process changes a bit (sometimes a lot) with each story! Nor shall I, because then where would the process be?
To me, it’s a lot like a jigsaw puzzle made up of people (who may be based on real people, or collages of real people … or a mirror image with a skewed angle … or not).
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