I just wrote a post about how today will be filled with the joys of pulling together my taxes, but I realized it was stupid so I deleted it.
Instead, I’ll dig out one of last month’s writing questions: “How does an idea become a whole story?”
::pause to stare at screen::
::types something:: ::deletes it::
::looks for another question::
::grits teeth and decides to deal with it::
This is a big question. In fact, there have been several books written in response to it. You’ll find a couple here.
Let me try to craft a short answer.
It helps to recognize the limitations of an idea. A watermelon seed in your hand doesn’t do you much good, unless you want to spit it at someone. A watermelon seed planted in well-balanced soil with good drainage at the right time of year, properly watered, weeded, and guarded from bugs and critters, will produce a decent watermelon you can enjoy. Your story idea is that seed – nice to look at, fun to think about. But you need to know going in that turning it into a story or book is going to require Work.
When I have an idea, I first focus on the people related to the idea. PROM, for example. The idea was to explore some issues that surround the ritual of an American prom. I started with the main character, Ashley Hannigan. Decided she would come from a working class family outside Philly, loving, but a little crazy. I spent a couple months thinking about and writing about her character, trying to figure out who she was. When I thought I understood her, I gave her The Big Problem – she hates the prom. Then I complicated it – she is forced to help save it. From there I imagined a series of complications, set-backs, and triumphs.
I don’t want you to think this all just pours out of my brain on to the page. I am not sure how other authors do it, but it tends to be very, very messy for me. Picture a person trying to decorate a room in total darkness. That’s what writing feels like to me a lot of the time. I flail around in confusion and doubt, trying to remember where I put everything. I fall down a lot.
This is why I recommend young writers start with short stories first. Novels can be a real pain – all those people! All that stuff! All those pages! Argh!
When you are writing or revising your story/novel, remember that every scene, every sentence needs to do at least one of two things: either give the reader more information about a character, or move the plot along.
Does that help?