Director

Week17

Last week I talked about how my stories are more similar to plays in terms of how they’re set up and how characters talk, but I realized that also gives the impression that I’m something of a director. I guess a lot of story-writers look like the creators of their own work, and I thought I’d go back to something I’ve touched on before and talk about how I’m not the creator of my stories. Not consciously at least.

Sounds backwards, right? My characters are definitely my own creations. Even if they’re inspired by people I’ve met before (Molly, Chris, Mr. Salvador, Phil, and Paul, to name a few). The stories themselves, however, are not things I sit down and plan out. My writing process goes like this – I allocate about 4 hours minimum to sit down and write (yes, I need that long, because for the first hour or so I’m an unfocused mess, and hour four is when my best writing comes out). I start with a bit more conscious thought. I’m more aware of the characters and their personalities and what they should say. Then, ten minutes in, my brain kind of shuts off and instead of thinking about the story, the story magically continues in front of me and I hurry to write down what I’m seeing.

Because of this, I have surprisingly little creative control over my writing. I wasn’t aware that (spoilers) the scene in Chapter 5 of Being More Social with Mitch’s grave was going to happen until it was already written down. Every part of it – the fact that her brother was dead, her outburst, the aftermath – none of it was consciously planned. Even if her brother was alluded to beforehand, I was not fully aware of what the situation was. Weird, right? It was definitely weird for me. In a way it’s kind of nice – I’m a spectator to these stories as much as you would be. I get to watch what happens in these stories in real time, never fully realizing what’s going to happen next.

This doesn’t necessarily mean zero planning is involved. Sometimes I’m riding on a train or something and my mind wanders and I suddenly picture what will happen in my next chapter or something, so I whip out my phone and jot down a few notes. That to me is the planning, since I wrote down what will be in the next chapter without writing it. Even then, I’m not playing the ‘director,’ so to speak. It’s more like I’m watching a play and adopting it to a book. In fact, that’s a very good metaphor for what happens with my writing. I’m more like a translator or adapter than a creator. Well, maybe my subconscious mind is a creator, but my point is, I don’t make any active choices.

That would be the answer to a few things. “Why did you make <character> do/say <action>?” I didn’t. The character did that, and I wrote it down. “Why aren’t you writing <some story, usually asking for a Being More Social sequel?” Because, as cheesy as it sounds, it’s not that story’s time yet. My mind knows where it wants to go, and I trust it to lead me to stories and tales to come. These blogs are probably the most thinking I ever do in my writing. (Cue the “well that makes a lot of sense” quip.) I’ll talk to you all next week.

2 thoughts on “Director

  1. Fascinating, thank you. I suspect a lot, but by no means all, writers work like this. I wonder if a good critic could tell which kind of story-process was involved from the results?

    An example of the contrary approach is the Harry Potter saga where, according to folklore, JK Rowling conceived pretty much the whole saga on a train journey and largely plotted it out before starting the first book. I don’t know if that’s actually true but what is true is that incidental, apparently irrelevant, details in the early books turn out to have been of great significance in the end.

    In your case, with the sagas extending, in writing time, over a considerable period, do you find you need to read back and check that nothing in the latest chapter is contradicting anything said earlier, or even feel the need to tie up a loose end from an earlier scene? Acting as an editor to the story, in other words?

    Anyway, very much enjoying this insight into how you work (not that I wouldn’t also enjoy some more of the work itself when you, or it, are ready).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m definitely ready for more of my writing to appear. Sorry about that.

      Interestingly, I find the opposite happens – certain details surprise me with their relevance later on. As I wrote about here, Nicole mentioned her brother in a grim light in an earlier chapter of Being More Social before the graveyard scene. even when writing that, I didn’t really know her brother was dead. My brain was turned off when I wrote it and it was just something she said. There are other details in my stories which are put in earlier to my own confusion, then get revealed later as foreshadowing, even to myself.

      Given I don’t really consciously plan out a lot of foreshadowing, odds are there are a few continuity errors in my stories. Maybe I should adopt a heavier editor role…

      Like

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