Original fiction project – week of 04/11/2010

Another big-picture planning week, in which I tried my hand at something that I am not as good at as I’d like to think I am: plotting. Plots are important. Plots make the story. How many great premises with great characters end up suxx0ring due to weak plots? Too many to count, as we all know.

As I well know. And yet, I have difficulty with plots, one of the most obvious being that when I’m writing the first draft of a story, I don’t want to know what’s going to happen next. I want it to “come to me”, and then I write it, and then wait again.

And before anyone starts wagging a finger at me for this, let me just say that this has been successful for me. This is not a pie-in-the-sky style of writing for me. The plain fact is, my right brain has better ideas than my left brain. My left brain is the top-down, before-hand plotting organizer, my right brain is the “let me stew on that, and I’ll get back to you when you’re in the shower covered in soap.” And almost invariably, the ideas I set out before hand are not as good as the stew-and-soap ones, because those come from somewhere deeper, the part of me that actual yearns to write.So I’ve always written this way, at least during the years when actual words got written, as opposed to the years where I just planned out stories and never wrote them.

So there’s that. The other thing is, when I sit down to draw out a general outline, a fuzzy watercolor version of my story, I can never think of anything. I do my best, but….

One of the things that was helpful to me when I was working on The Destroyer, where story-telling with an active audience demanded I have some CLUE where I was going, was to borrow from the classics in plotting out a seasonal arc. Season 1 of The Destroyer, for example, was a retelling of the myth of Odysseus, except from Telemachus’ (Connor’s) POV, rather than Odysseus (Angel). The bad guys of the season–Penelope’s (Faith’s) “suitors”–were demons trying to take over L.A. in Angel’s absence, which I renamed the Syndicate. Having the basic outline of Telemachus’ attempt to find his lost father and Penelope’s struggle against the Suitors gave me the basic idea for the season, including its climax, and the details could be made up by me as I went along, which worked well.

Similarly, season 2 was based on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, and I used the different phases of that journey to plot out various episodes.

I picked the stories I picked for those two seasons based on what I wanted to go with Connor. In season 1, I needed him to fully reconcile and develop a relationship with his father. And I did that by giving him a mission to find his lost father, who was in hell after the battle in the alley in NFA. In season 2, I needed to turn a young man who was still traumatized by his early years and overly-enamored with “being normal” (as a result of his implanted memories) into a hero.

So I am doing something similar with my original characters. Figuring out who they are and what their basic situation is was something I had to do through writing. I wrote as much as could of the actual story before it stalled out due to a lack of a plot, and now I am revisiting the stories that I love, seeing if I can borrow from them to give an actual spine to character journeys I am writing now.

4 thoughts on “Original fiction project – week of 04/11/2010

  1. when I’m writing the first draft of a story, I don’t want to know what’s going to happen next. I want it to “come to me”, and then I write it, and then wait again.
    This is what works for me too. I can’t do a plot outline for a story any more than I could do an outline for a report at school. I always had to write the report first and THEN do the outline. With regular writing, I have to step out of the way and let the right brain guide the story. If I try to plan it out consciously, the story is dead in the water. I know. I’ve lost a couple of books that way.
    Most of my friends don’t get this. They plan everything out in vast detail, and appear to enjoy it.
    It’s nice to know that someone else is in the same boat.

  2. It’s nice to know that someone else is in the same boat.
    Ditto. And I *do* outline the second draft. The first draft is invariably a meandering, forked trail of ideas. But good ones that just need a little tightening up.

  3. Exactly! The second draft is for cleaning up the rambling story that emerges the first time around, correcting errors (last time around, I couldn’t figure out if the action was taking place mid-December or in late May), and cutting the details and paragraphs that don’t add that much. That’s perfect for the left brain, which is extraordinarily anal-retentive. Mine is, at any rate.

  4. I’m actually *extremely* left-brained, and if I don’t tell that sucker to back off and watch TV or something, it will try to write the story. And it sucks at that. Editing yes. Generating, no.

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