Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The More Things Change, the More They Change Some More

I've been working my way through James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure book. I'm one of those that needs a little instruction to feel confident. So far, it seems I'm on the right track and it's forced me to sit down and ask some questions that have pulled key elements of my story out of my head. I've always known this needed to be done, but wasn't sure what questions to ask or how to go about putting the pieces together in a way that it's engaging.

An aside: when I added the book to my Goodreads account, I couldn't help but notice the first review of it was a rather dismissive one from a guy who at the time was an aspiring author (wonder if he ever got published). He scoffed, saying he believed writing comes from the imagination, not from this formulaic process of wringing ideas out of your brain and then applying a paint-by-numbers approach to making that idea a story. He sited Tom Robbins, one of his favorite authors (and mine too, the one who wrote the crazy book I blurbed last week) as saying he didn't outline. I would buy that. Totally! But, I can't possibly assume to be such a master wordsmith as Tom Robbins, with his witty and off-the-wall metaphorical prose, on my first venture out the door and this guy shouldn't either (unless he wants that door slammed in his face... repeatedly). Tom Robbins' style is something that works for Tom Robbins. It's not going to work for everyone. Not without a lot of practice. And Bell says repeatedly in his book that throwing the formula out the window is totally acceptable, but only after you understand the formula enough to recognize what exactly you're throwing and why and can defend it. Also, he says, you've got to have the talent to back it up. This guy might be the next Tom Robbins, who knows. But if he lacks rich characters, an engaging plot and an interesting setting, well he's going to have to make up for it with his writing, BIG TIME!

This sort of mentality is what bugs me the most about being a creative person and interacting with other creative people. It doesn't seem to matter what industry I'm working in, there's always this art vs craft debate going on and there is never a resolution. I just don't see why the two can't reside together, inside the same person even. I don't see why it's unacceptable to work with both simultaneously. But whatever, good on him for being such a unique and special snowflake. The rest of us are going to go take our original and creative ideas and pound them into something useful.

*steps off soapbox*

That was not at all what I wanted to post about, but it's been bugging me for over a day now and it needed to be out of me.

So what changes? Everything. If you're just joining me, I've recently suffered a catastrophic hard drive failure & am in the process of shipping it off to see if we can salvage my files. As in everything I've ever written. D'oh. So I'm flying blind right now, working on my outline without my old notes or various documents to which I can refer. Mostly it's been liberating because I can break out of that thought that I've put work into something and need to try to salvage it. Sometimes it's incredibly frustrating because I can't remember what I named my main evil dude. Also, when my head bounces around in the story, I just have to make a note in the margin instead of being able to jump to that spot in my outline and add it real quick, then jump back and continue on.

But things are changing in huge sweeping ways and I think it's all for the better. I'm even thinking of a pov change to help drive home a point that is going to be the subject of a twist in the story later. I thought I was beyond thus point in development, but I'm glad I'm doing it. My story is going to be so much richer for it. I see layers developing and themes being born. It's all very exciting. If my pen would just keep up with my head...

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