The insightful and talented Teresa Nielsen Hayden, of Making Light, has a powerful and short little post up right now. It’s four little tools to help build a truly rollicking story. Or, as she says, “for turning story into fiction.” I especially like numbers 1 and 4:
1. Move and keep moving. Tell the story you want to tell without shilly-shallying around. Move your characters out onto the board, get them into interesting situations, and have them do big, consequential things as early as you can. Then, continue making situations interesting, and keep the big, consequential actions coming.
4. See if you already have one. Whenever you need something new — prop, plot thread, setting, minor character — go back through the parts of the story you’ve already written and see whether you can find it there. It’s surprising how often the exact thing you need is already sitting there in plain sight.
It’s worth the time to read and absorb the whole post. She doesn’t purport to solve all your story-building problems, just offers more tools for us to work with. And it’s an interesting filter for looking at my own writing.
Too often, my toolkit for writing (especially long fiction) looks like a hodge-podge of generic ‘tricks’. Much of my creative energy is spent simply getting the words out of my head and onto the page. Any useful tools for shaping the work and/or keeping my head straight while I’m doing it are more than welcome.
I can’t recommend her work enough. You should go devour the entire site when you have a chance.
They say that if you listen carefully, on the night of the full moon – in the wee hours before dawn – you can hear Patrick Jennings-Mapp cursing at his laptop. He is still waiting for his inbox to fill up with submissions for the winter anthology. Hint hint.