Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Building a Story (Part One)

I thought I’d write about writing. People ask me a lot about my routine, the path I take to tell a story from inception to completion. Usually I shrug it off as some indefinable, somewhat magical process that cannot be explained. But there are nuts and bolts to the process. It is never mechanical for me, but there are some systematic steps that happen when I write.

Keep in mind, what works for me may not work for you. We all dance to the beat of our own accordions. But if you find some inspiration in these segments, I’d love to hear. Here we go.

I write a pretty strong first draft. As long as you don’t need any of those non-sensical things, you know, like details. I am comfortable in the language is what I am saying. Nothing is more important. The language can set the tone and mood of your story simply by the words and phrases you use. One writer, I don’t remember who, once said, “You have to like to roll around in the language.” For me that quote changed the way I told stories. I grew as a writer much faster when I realized the power of language and how it can be used. As of today, the lessons continue, but I have a better understanding of language and how to use it.

This does not mean I don’t rewrite. For me, rewriting is where the true work comes in. I’ve got my story down, and it is pretty good in my humble opinion, at least worth the investment of time to give it a chance at life. It has progressed sometimes begrudgingly, from wherever I started right along to some sort of conclusion (more on this later). So now that I know where the story is going, it is time to figure out what the damn ting is about.

That may sound strange, figuring out the meaning after the tale has been told. But it is how my brain functions. And, right or wrong, it seems to work. At least for me. What will follow over the next few weeks is a primer on the way my mind works when constructing a story. The creative process really is about building, and each of these vignettes will hopefully explain the way I build the structure. The brick and mortar you use to build your stories -- to reinforce them, will determine how solid they are, how long they last, and how long they resonate with the reader which after all, is the whole point.

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