Sunday, September 21, 2008

Off to the airport and thoughts about writing

Amid the final packing and waiting for the shuttle to take me to the airport, I figured I'd check in with you all.

A lot of beginning writers (and sometimes those more experienced writers) will ask me where people come up with stories. I am sure many of you have heard the same question when you tell people you are a writer. This is sometimes a tough question to answer.

I bring this up though, because for many stories, it is this step that will result in either a great story or one that will become a total flop. I really don't care how much time you put into a story, or how many edits you take it though, or for that matter, how many wins you get from contests, if the premise of the story is flawed, in the end, the story will be flawed.

I think that too often, writers dive into a story without really thinking through the entire idea behind their story. This can happen one of two ways...

In many cases, they start with two characters and try to build a story around those people. They have a great hero in their head, or the image of this heroine and then proceed to shove the two of them together like a bad blind date. Of course, like those blind dates, the relationship never blossoms. You as the writer/matchmaker just put together two people that A) would never have gotten together; and B) would never make it together even if circumstances were right.

Now the second approach that writers take is to start with some scenario and then try to throw characters into the story. In this case, it frequently happens from building a "high concept" story without looking at the big picture. "What if I create a story about a bus crash in the Andes and..." Yes, you have a great story but now we are missing the characters. Again, you can't just build the story around this single premise. Besides, if the situation is this extreme, Maslow's hierarchy says that people will not be thinking of sex, but thinking of survival (and no you can't just say this is an emotional release in a time of tension).

I know what you are thinking, but I don't do both of those. I would hope not, but you would be surprised how many people really do. To create that perfect balance, you have to take the time to look at both. I don't care if you start with the characters or the plot, but stop and think of the right pairings and the right combination. Make sure that the plot is not one that is believable and one that will yield a relationship. If you start with characters, make sure that they would likely bump into each other and would really want to hang out with each other. If the only thing holding them together is the crisis of the story, nothing will happen once that crisis is over.

Now, get out there and write.

I'll see you in October. Remember the OCTOBER CATEGORY ROMANCE CHALLENGE will be starting soon.

For those of you that missed the Sept. MARKETING YOUR FICTION CLASS the next one will begin in November, but contact Pierce College anyway, there may still be time to enroll in this one. The information is on my website at

Finally, if you are in the Puget Sound area, I'll be at the Write Across The Sound conference in Edmonds, WA this Oct. Again, information is on my website, but make sure to swing by and say hi.



No comments:

Post a Comment