Author Update: I am preparing for a move, but will be restarting this journal with a weekly entry as of today.
Whenever I sit down to write, I start with the image of the main cast of characters, then I place my fingers on the keyboard and type. I form the setting and characters’ interactions, and then move outward from there. This is just the initial stage — a flood of ideas, and the point is to just get words onto paper. To let all the ideas flow out through my fingers and onto the white blank page before me.
Once I’ve written enough to establish the image of the story in my head, I then take the time to sit down with the characters. If this is a longer work, I’ll fill out my character worksheet, and really dig into who they are. If it’s a shorter work, I’ll just look at their role in the story, how their personality informs that role and alters it, and what changes about them during the course of the story. I’ll map out their journey, and then I will go back to look at what I’ve written to see how that coincides with what I just mapped and how I can utilize some of the ideas into a solid and coherent story.
This helps me develop the theme of my work. Often in the flood of ideas, the theme is right there, but it’s after I map out the character’s journey that it hops out at me in stark relief. The theme is the thread that sews the story together, and every story has one. A theme isn’t just a one word motif; no, it’s an answer to a question. It chooses a side in whatever struggle is captured in the tale.
After I have these elements set before me, I return to the original slew of ideas and then pull the story from its amorphous mass. I mold it, shape it, and breathe life into it. It grows and squirms and screams with energy, set free by the touch of my fingers against the keys. The story, even when it is still unformed, yearns for life and rattles around in my head, haunting my dreams and thoughts until I set it free, unleashing it upon the world. Those are the stories that really stick with me. The ones I am able to polish and submit in hopes they will find a home.
There are other failed stories. The ones that I couldn’t breathe life into them because the clay was too brittle, too wet, too unresisting. Those tales are set aside to be taken apart later, either to root out new ideas for a different tale, or to examine what went wrong and learn from that mistake. Because even for those failed stories, they are never useless. Never not worth writing. They hold a plethora of information on what not to do, and they help me practice the craft, because it’s only with practice that one continues to grow and move forward. You can only learn theory so much before you need to apply it and really dig into it. That’s when the theory really sticks in your mind — when you get your hands dirty with its application.
My writing process is often messy, but that’s all part of the beauty of it all. With my imagination, I can take any clump of ideas and sculpt it into something interesting. Maybe, if I did it well enough, it’ll become something others will enjoy reading, something that invokes thought and really sits with them. A story that is unforgettable.
That is perhaps the biggest challenge of all. Discovering and learning how to write that unforgettable story, but all we can do is keep trying. Keep learning, and keep practicing.