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In a recent entry, I bemoaned the rigidity of my writing brain. I talked about using a different POV to convey info, but I wasn't clear because I don't want to bore people with specifics. What I meant to say was this:

I have a few characters in the same location right now, and two of them (Srila and Qeoe) have had some similar experiences. That means they can be used to show some of the same events in this world. Obviously. My realization was, given their common past, I could pass some bits of Srila's cut scene to Qeoe to expound upon.

In rewriting, I had found a new way of saying something from Srila's POV that fits well with her goals. However, I still liked the previous version because it gave a bit more insight into the world as well as her personal pain. I could not fit it into the flow of her revised chapters, though; and by time the POV came back to her, it was too late. I thought my only choices were to cut it or squeeze it into something that was already working. Naturally, I decided to kill the darlings.

Until the realization struck.  Qeoe lived through the exact same experience, and even though her loss was not quite the same as Srila's, it makes total sense to give some more backstory and setting from her point-of-view. Flavoring the whole and revealing her character through her pain and memories.

And that's the thing: It makes perfect sense, so why didn't I have the sense to see it earlier?  Why do I waste precious time shoehorning words and ideas into whatever form they first occured to me? Why does my brain not search out more creative ways of making connections and shifting either prose or ideas? Is it because I'm more in love with the "prose" and see it before the "idea" it is meant to convey?  Maybe.

As I've said before my imagination doesn't seem to work like the majority of writers, i.e, I don't see storymovies in my head that I then transcribe onto screen/paper. Characters don't hang around and talk to me. They may be persistent but never in a direct, "Hey, writer, it's me! Write my story" way. I see a (still) picture, I pull an intriguing line or story idea from thin air (in other words, I *tell* myself; I don't hear an Other "voice"), or ask myself questions about something interesting I've seen or heard in RL or fiction. Then I accrete a story. Slowly. Making it real as I go along.

Can a writer change the way her imagination works? I don't know. I do know that in writing, we discover modes of work that fit for one project but not another. So far, I've never had a different way of a story occuring to me. I have tried to "see" a movie in my head, tried to meditate and "meet a character" or "play out a scene" in my mind's eyes. It always sputters and fizzles. Immediately. I get frustrated and then move on. I can pretend to be a character and write something in 1st person and get some good info. But I do not see any kind of action streaming through my mind.

To go back to the accretion thing. If I'm slowly growing a story, like a statue, it makes no sense to me to build it (or partially build it), take a hammer to it, break it into pieces, and then cobble it back together and call it the same story. This must be the crux of my block. But I have too much of an achy head to continue with it, much less to reread if this makes sense.

Any thoughts?


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 20th, 2015 04:20 pm (UTC)
I've read so many different ways of being creative and writing. There's the I-see-a-movie-in-my-head way, but, for instance, nineweaving has written about an accretive way of creating here. Look especially at her remarks here, in comments.

I understand feeling frustrated with your approach to writing and stories. I feel frustrated with mine. I feel so very, very *conventional*, boring, and flat. If I say things like this, people will rush to reassure me, but it's something I feel deeply, inside. I don't know what to do about it. So, I just keep trying...
Sep. 21st, 2015 04:24 pm (UTC)
*You* feel conventional and boring? You've got a greater talent than almost anybody I know to see the extraordinary in every-day life.

If you feel like that, then there really is no connection between the feeling and reality. Which is tremendously reassuring, as the feeling is one I'm familiar with...
Sep. 21st, 2015 05:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the generous words. I keep telling myself, people seem to like what I write well enough, but it's hard (sometimes impossible) to silence the inner voice. I think there really is no connection to how we feel and the reality. For better or for worse! I took some big hits to self-esteem and confidence in the past year, and it's surely contributed to my current outlook. But back in, oh, 2006, let's say, I was overbrimming with confidence, and, frankly, some of it was pretty unjustified. A person can be blind in either direction. (Sorry to be such a morose downer... on a more positive note, I think if we just keep trying and sharing, at least our words can find readers)
Sep. 21st, 2015 10:02 am (UTC)
Hmm. I find I certainly different modes for when I'm finding out what happens when I go along, and when I already know what happens and I'm trying to work out the best way to show it. Sometimes I have to go through the first mode to find out what happens (and often more importantly, what really motivates the characters), and then I'll tell it again using the second mode and change all the viewpoints and edit it to best advantage. Other times, what comes out of the first mode is actually the best...
Sep. 21st, 2015 12:52 pm (UTC)
If I'm slowly growing a story, like a statue, it makes no sense to me to build it (or partially build it), take a hammer to it, break it into pieces, and then cobble it back together and call it the same story.

That depends, I think, on whether your definition of "the story" is the kernel of the idea which prompted you to begin writing or the end product. Is a plant simultaneously the seed it grows from and the grown plant?

I don't know that it will be helpful, but I have always felt that, in writing, I'm translating to the written word from the flat images (not movies) and accompanying emotions my brain thinks in. Once I get the words right, I have a very hard time rewriting - to the point where, when I really get hung up, I have to switch to a different media (most often paper, now) and write out the new scene by hand, completely separate from the draft I'm rewriting. Otherwise, I flail constantly over the transitions from paragraph to paragraph. :-)
Sep. 21st, 2015 04:48 pm (UTC)
It makes perfect sense, so why didn't I have the sense to see it earlier?

Because it's hindsight. And you cannot have hindsight in advance, by definition.  

Why does my brain not search out more creative ways of making connections and shifting either prose or ideas?

Only you can know the answer to that. Maybe. For some writers, everything is made-up. For some writers, everything is set in stone. Most writers are in the middle. My writing metaphor is that I'm a chronicler: I write down what happened. And like a historian, sometimes my block-headed insistence that I know how this kind of story unfolds stands in my way, and I force a story into a shape that doesn't work and I need to go back, and listen more carefully. Like a historian, I sometimes uncover new evidence that means that things cannot have happened as I wrote them down, so I need to go back, and rewrite. But like a historian, I also can never combine two characters to make a third and simplify the story.

my imagination doesn't seem to work like the majority of writers

I don't know how the majority of writers work. There are so many ways. I do get the voices (though not as actual audio), I get impressions, feelings. Sometimes I get a line of actual dialogue (which often comes from the middle of a book) It all depends.

I've always found that going with the flow - accepting that yes, this is how my brain works, next question - works better for me than trying to shoehorn myself into a mode of thinking that doesn't work for me.

So I think the first step is to identify what, exactly, your problem was, there: words set too much in stone and you found it difficult to change them? Not spotting a hook to fit several; unrelated thoughts into a scene (sometimes that means you're editing too closely, too much paragraph-by-paragraph and need more distance). Not having enough of a concept about how these characters' experiences overlap, where they differ, and how to keep the core of that scene while rewriting it in a different context? They're different diagnoses off the top of my head, and your real problem might be different still.
Sep. 21st, 2015 05:26 pm (UTC)
I like your historian image. I've sometimes felt like an archaeologist of the story, uncovering it.
Sep. 22nd, 2015 01:38 pm (UTC)
I find it helpful - not just because it matches how I work and how I feel about characters/story - but also because I remind myself that historians go back and question 'what they know' and change their mind when they uncover new evidence.

I also discovered eventually that my brain has an idea shorthand: 90% of all ideas arrive with a renaissance-ish setting and young male protagonists. If I stood my ground and said 'this is the story' I'd lose out on a lot. Instead I treat that as a walkthrough, as something that gives me dynamics and an idea of what the story is like, and then I sit down and dig deeper. And suddenly the story might involve classical Greece or three-gendered lizards; if I'd treated my first ideas as written in stone I would have lost out on those. (That one is alive and I'll come back to it one of these days.)
Sep. 22nd, 2015 07:03 pm (UTC)
Maybe you shouldn't change the way your imagination works, but work on improving the way of writing that comes naturally to you?

I know I've suggested that you hop into that character brain/body and take it from where, but if that method just isn't growing on you or doesn't come easy to you, then maybe my advice wasn't the right one for you?

(and yes, you're definitely a prose lover, not sure that's a bad thing either, though).
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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