Hey guys. First off. I’m super sorry that I didn’t have a post ready yesterday. I glanced down at my phone a while ago, realized it was Friday, and felt horrible. I haven’t missed a Thursday Writing Tips post in a long time. This could get messy.
So, first, a little note about yesterday. I woke up, and I was expecting to run out to the property and put some tin up. While waiting on a phone call, I was also trying to get all of my files uploaded for the upcoming release. Pretty well pushing everything I had toward planning my release for Incorporated First Strike and taking care of that.
I finished everything up, set my dates, made some notes about the roll-out, and my phone call had not come yet. I knew that I needed to get some words, and forgot all about Thursday in the process. I even checked my blog a couple of time to look at various stats, and still forgot. You can call it a flow state or whatever, but I was really zoned in on getting words, and I was already mentally drained from the morning.
A Positivity Anecdote
Mentally drained, a phone call bearing down on me, and some not so kind words from a local floating in my head, I couldn’t think about what to write. But I have a strategy that has yet to fail me.
I went to the apartment, opened the laptop, opened the word processor, and put my fingers on the keys. I started typing, and typing, and typing. Most of it was mindless dribble about trying to remember parts of a dream from the morning that sounded like a good story when I woke. The dream was long gone, but typing teased out a few fragments. I’ve used this technique of jotting down each bit until I can recall a healthy percentage of the dream. It didn’t work yesterday.
But…I did get about 300 words of scraps while trying to log it all, and I came up with a quicky idea for a piece of flash, which was subsequently published on FridayFlashFiction.com. Normally, it takes a day or two for a story to get approved, but they were on it yesterday. It was up by the time I checked back. I was only going to read a few stories for extra inspiration, and there my name was, right at the top of the list. Happy, happy. Here’s a link to the story.
The Muses are here, let’s put them to work.
That still wasn’t quite enough. My phone call finally came, but it wasn’t what I expected, so once I finish up my morning storying for today, I’ll be off to buy tin. What happened next was unexpected, but directly based on the muses I attracted with all the thought-jotting, I’m sure of it.
I kept beating my head against the desk, trying to craft something that I might be able to submit this month to a lit mag for my goal sheet, and came up with another idea. An idea for a fantasy story just popped in my head. I started asking myself questions.
What do I like about fantasy stories? I dunno, monsters and shit.
What are my favorite fantasy stories? RPG video games. Especially Gothic.
What do I like about that so much?
I went through a long list of these. I was no longer sitting down, but walking a winding path about my apartment, like a bee doing a dance to tell the others where the blooming flowers are. This was not my first walk-around brainstorming session, but it was a memorable one, for sure. I basically interrogated myself about the highlights and drawbacks of the fantasy genre, while trying to get back to my philosophy about writing shorter pieces of fiction. I decided that the hardest part, for me, about getting sucked into a fantasy world is the setup.
When I pick up a fantasy book-especially a short piece-I’m often blasted with a bunch of names, dates, places, and what is considered “necessary” world-building elements. These elements make fantasy clunky in the opening verses. The reader isn’t sucked in so much as jarred away from their present reality, and there’s a lot to digest. A light-bulb went off, and I did something that can only really be done with short fiction. I proposed a solution to the problem and ran with it. The result was a nice little 1600 word piece that I thought was pretty clever, where the main character is exploring the new world.
Now, there are probably a hundred authors out there who have sought to solve this problem in various ways, and as much as I hate bringing up the JK Rowling, it makes a good example. Harry knows nothing about the world he’s about to enter, so the reader explores it with him. Most stories start by describing a smaller portion of the fantasy world, and the lead character takes his first steps into a large, mysterious world that he/she knows very little about. There are always ways to innovate, and there are another fifty or sixty ways to accomplish the same goal, and I found one that I quite liked.
Now I have not only this one short story, but a whole series that I can continue jotting down, exploring a world that I’ve been setting up for a while, one bit at a time. Muse bites can trigger innovation, if you are looking for it.
A new brainstorming strategy
I think we all do it at some point, usually when we first get into writing and still suck at finding words. For some, writing seems to follow them from birth. For me it was not this way. I wrote a lot when I was younger, but I know exactly when my “ah ha” moment was that prompted me to start writing my first novel. I read something and thought, I can do better.
Since that first book, I’ve never really done something totally different just for the sake of doing something different. After a long decade of cranking out words, I’ve learned a lot about story structure and how things are supposed to go. I always want to write something new. I want to create stories that aren’t familiar, or loose copies of earlier stories, but this was the first time that I really took time to think about both the pros and cons of a selected genre, and set out to solve them.
One annoying feature. Start there, and fix. Looking at a story structure from above gives you all the tools you need to solve something that isn’t generally addressed in most literature. For my science fiction, this is believability of the tech. My horror book was an attempt to generate a new kind of monster with novel traits that I had never seen. I’ve come up with monsters for my random fantasy musings dealing mostly with creating new classes of heros and monsters. But this time was different. I came up with a lead-in to my story that solved a genre-specific problem in a clever way. I don’t think I’ll look at the brainstorming process the same ever again. I don’t want to. This just works for me.
I don’t know where these stories are headed. They’re going to be too short to make into 99 cent Kindle books. Getting a lit mag to take on a long series of stories isn’t exactly easy (though I plan to try). They may just end up here on the website, and possibly copied over to Wattpad for free reading.
I’m having fun with the story though, and I’m going to keep having fun with it. When I have nothing else to write, this is a story that I can keep coming back to, and I can introduce the fantasy elements one or two at a time without bogging down the reader. I stole the main character’s name from my first-ever novel that never got published. I ran with an idea, and I’m looking forward to see where it goes. Short-short stories, simple plots, but different than anything I’ve seen done before. They may make for a good compilation later on down the road. Who knows?
What I do know is that this whole process was mechanical in nature. Following a series of simple steps, I sparked my own imagination and came up with things to write. My fantasy story has nothing to do with the dream I was trying to reproduce, but you never know where a creative process is going to end up, but I always know where to start. Sometimes I end up with pages and pages of garbage, other times, something better drops out.
Trust in the formula. Fingers on the keys, typing anything. Examine what you really want to do by interrogating yourself about what you would like to see in a story. Be specific about what you want to accomplish, and when the time comes, start writing it. That moment. Even if you don’t know where you’re going, or you have to scrap the first few thousand words. You’ll amaze yourself with what you can create.
Sorry again this post is a day late. Here’s hoping that these muses flutter off to your house today. I don’t need them to cut tin 😉 Happy writing.