Telling good stories is challenging work. Even seasoned writers, famously known for their prowess with the pen, still have to work extremely hard to make their next story shine.
What makes a story ‘shine’? How do we ensure that readers are carried along through the winding roads of a good story, and don’t close the book before it ends?
The dialogue, narrative, and background description are the fabrics that we use to build vivid thoughts that the reader transforms into story.
But first, we need to find the gem that is the heart of story.
Readers interpret stories. That’s why, after reading, we can discuss the ideas in a story, and have different perceptions of our reading experience.
In spite of these demanding thoughts and ideas, we must also enjoy writing the story, bathe in our sweat as if it cleansed us, and enjoy the redness at the tips of our fingers as if we were in a happy state of,“no pain, no gain”.
Ray Bradbury, who lived his life in the world of fiction, fantasy, and the idea of having great fun when writing, said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”, if it isn’t fun, then why do it?
Narrative, storyline, plot, dialogue, characterization, and so on, we can break down the elements of story telling infinitely, and still find some morsel where it can be split further into smaller atoms.
Ray Bradbury also go on to say, in his book, “Zen in the art of Writing”, that if he stopped writing for one day, he’d begin to feel uneasy, if two days without writing pass, he’ll get the tremors, and on the third he’d go into a state of lunacy.
That’s often the case for many writers. To tell a story is like a release of mental pressure. It’s our way of sharing our perceptions of the world viewed through our mental filters. We’ve seen something, it made us think deeply, then we need to share it. A story emerges.
James Scott Bell, an American noir crime author, says that when we want to tell a story, we need to get creative. How does that even begin to happen, especially on demand?
James Scott Bell suggests you need to “prod” the mind. Sometimes a prod with a shocker on the end of it might be better, but it does work. That small prod, which could be defined more as ‘take an interest in things’, then see what happens. Ideas will begin to emerge.
As writers, we are naturally creative. That’s the first characteristic of a writer’s mental make up.
Creativity is active curiosity.
The reason we write is because we can’t brush aside ideas in the same way as other people. We must investigate, and mull things over. Our curious minds are at work, all of the time. The result is better formulated ideas, and they seem to develop into natural storylines.
Those storylines come in bits and pieces, or vague snippets when we try to write them down. Then begins the bleeding fingers part, the sweat dripping onto the page, and the battle to stop staring into space and keep writing. Yes, such fun, Mr Bradbury.
The fun part really is fun, despite everything. The joy of it only stops when we make the mistake of staring into space. Space staring is caused by the critical mind that wants to take control of the story much too early.
You haven’t got 200 hundred words down, and the judgemental, critically thinking part of the brain demand’s the working space. It wants to take over, it’s the bully in your creative mind.
Critical thinking tells you it knows much better than those feelings that only feel like a good idea. Developing vague ideas into interlocked passages of thought comes first.
Critical thinking comes later.
Those vague feelings about the story are the ones to take seriously. They are fun. Those are the ideas that came after you prodded your mind into action. To simply think of a situation, or observe an event, a walk away with a bag full feelings and thoughts about what the hell was going on. That’s your material. Your task as a writer is to make sense of it.
So, don’t censor ideas. If you do, you are censoring the very building blocks of your work. The key is to keep critical thinking at bay. Critical thinking loves order, the dogmatic, and rules. It makes everything black and white, plain and simple.
Each story should be approached as if you’ve found a gem of an idea, and you’re prepared to set up ‘a dig’ using small trowel, and brush to gently smooth away dust and dirt a little at a time, and slowly but surely, reveal the real story.
When the real story is revealed through hard work, you’ll see it clearly. It will leap out at you like a dragon from a dark cave, fire breathing, transforming everything around it into light. You’ll know you’ve found the gem stone, and now, it’s time to write it down.
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