Totally Out Of Control. Writing, that is (seemingly, at least) – it’s not just the way I do it, either – Characters roam off, following their own dreams, plots crack open in new and surprising ways, giving glimpses of potential and new directions, and writers bump into things that shake them, move them or otherwise inspire them to tweak something – yes, again – The whole process is messy and may, on the surface of things, look to be totally out of control.
I never realized just complicated the activity is until I started telling You Lot about it, and I’ve been writing 45 years for a very long time now.
How does it get so messy?
The spark of a story, for me, is usually an emotion, something born from unusual circumstances, which (if I can make them so) are nice and tight and twisty. The process from deciding on the emotion to settling the details of the circumstances might take minutes or months. It’s all, at this stage, in the mind. It’s also tidy.
If the concept and details excite me, I work on how such a set of circumstances could come about. This is important. It will also take more time and is likely to get messy because it has to be realistic. If readers don’t believe the circumstances, they won’t believe the emotions or the story. I can’t just say it is so, either. To make those circumstances real, I have to give them legitimacy. Giving reason for those circumstances to exist also gives me a backdrop, a place where this can happen.
Still in the mind, this continues to come as (mostly) clean blocks of information.
After that comes character development – yes, you can see trouble coming, I know you can.
At this point, I’m usually writing. I’ll have notes for the backdrop and I will have written up the climax, although I know that it will change when the characterization is settled. As people and relationships change, their voices and reactions change, too. That means all dialogue will have to be rewritten, so those notes are more like guidelines.
Here it begins to get messy. Characters grow as I decide who these people are, where they came from and why and how they got into the situation I have devised. That’s where the story is, with the characters, and the characters are finding each other.
Their personalities meet and merge or clash, and then their foibles pop up. One or two might want to go their own way (characters, that is, not foibles. Do concentrate, you guys).
On top of that, this is where I will bump into the unexpected consequences of realism – such as Va’el not being the 18 year-old I envisaged, but having to be a mere 10. Simple mathematics won’t allow it to be otherwise. There is, of course, a huge difference in the mentality of a 10 year-old compared to an 18 year-old. I have a similar problem with another boy, restricted to age 11 when all his dialogue comes from a 15 year-old. That’s another rewrite.
By now it’s hugely messy. Things I have set in motion trip up other things I have set in motion and I realize that some things I took for granted just don’t work. Another rewrite (or several) takes place as I search for solutions.
By now the story is ablaze in my heart and soul – no way I’m going to abandon the thing because someone has to be younger than I thought him, or some other piece of logic gets in my way. No, it’s onward, regardless. But I do have to find a way.
All the while, of course, side issues crop up, potential opens, other twists present themselves and new characters steal the show.
It’s a wonderful adventure, writing. We get the entire journey, warts, worries, foibles and all. I wondered why we did it, and now I know! 😀