Dashing Forward with No Direction

Writing, I think, is one of the few things you can either do with a meticulous plan or absolutely nothing in mind but the barest of scenarios and still end up in the same place.

I plot, plan, and fill out worksheets. It seems stupid, and sometimes I get on myself, thinking that I should be able to create on the fly, but it seems to be my method. By doing character profiles of varying sizes, I fill out the entire story from beginning to end. All the twists and turns that will take place, how this character would react that way and why, things going on in the background of the main story, and the character’s backstory and therefore his/her motivations.

Writing a synopsis at that point is only to give myself a roadmap in case I forget that I want point B to be moved to after point L. By understanding my characters and the basic concept behind them, I try to get them to behave in a certain way which is true to my vision of them. Sometimes they surprise me, which is always nice. Sometimes I wonder how they are going to act or be in a situation, because it’s not familiar to them. That being said, when I have that firm concept of a character, I am free to vary from the plot I originally envisioned. If a character matures more than I had anticipated, it’s great. That’s not to say there is no spontaneity, and the characters and plot will often surprise me (if you’ve read my book Winter’s Trial, there was a twist/connection that came out at the very end which surprised me as much as anyone).

Since the new thing I’m working on will (hopefully) be for an upcoming anthology call, I have a word limit and a theme. That does make things easier and harder. The plot needs to be brief, and the characters need to be real enough to float, but not so heavy with story and character that they sink. I don’t think this is how short stories should be written. In fact, I think it’s a cheap way of doing it, and shows my weaknesses. I have never been good at the short format, so this is a challenge for me. I know that a very good short story writer can put all the heavy character and include the plot and come out with something rich, detailed, and nuanced. I would come out with an idea for a novella or full-blown novel.

So, I’m flying blindly. I am not filling out character sketches for 30 pages of story. It seems redundant and forced. And that brings me to the lesson I have learned through this process. Having characters in mind, having a plot in mind, I am otherwise going blind into this endeavor. And it’s working. The whole first and second scenes are firm in my mind. The next one is vague, but the one after that is probably the second clearest in the whole thing. And so on.

Usually this gives me anxiety (or outright fear as I have discussed before). I worry that in that blank spot is some crucial bit of information, that it’s a load-bearing scene which needs to be dissected and poured over and examined until it’s 100% clear in my head. I obsess. I actually STOP writing in order to figure the scene out. This is where the fear sets in and where I usually stop.

Screw that! I’m not letting some 30 page short story stump me.

I think this is good for me, this not knowing. Working through these blank spots (there are two which are totally blank in my head) will show me that I can do it on a smaller scale. And if I can do it on a small scale, I can do it on a larger one. It’s not hard. I know where I have to end up, and if those blank scenes turn out to be load-bearing scenes which totally change the outcome, then that’s how the story was meant to be, and I will change the ending accordingly. By working through this, by purposefully remaining in the dark, I will confront my stupidity and my panic and realize that I can, in fact, work through it.


~ by Darren Endymion on December 4, 2014.

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