Allowing a story to happen

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Some writers begin with an outline while others just start writing. Either way, the story is likely to have a mind of its own. Characters will do and say unexpected things. Research will turn up new ideas that alter the original ideas for a scene. Regardless of the overall plan, or lack of a plan, the story will need a bit of space in which to grow.

You’ll know when it’s better to wait patiently than to press on with your typing. This often happens at the end of a scene. Now it’s time for the characters to do something else. But what? Or, it may be time for for the writer to check in on another character. But who? Or, perhaps you’ve written up to the edge of A BIG SCENE and you’re not exactly sure how that big scene ought to get underway.

At times like this, I find it better to stop writing for 15 minutes, an hour, or perhaps for the rest of the afternoon and do something unrelated to the novel or short story I’m working on. If the next scene of the story seems close, but isn’t quite resolving into my thoughts, I’ll do something relatively mindless like playing a game of Freecell, hearts or Angry Birds. If I think the scene needs more time to come to mind, I’ll go do errands or mow the lawn.

When I distract myself, the next scene in the story always occurs to me out of nowhere.

I suppose there are many theories about this. I really don’t want to know them. If I did know them, the whole process might simply stop working. Anyhow, I have my own theory about it.

If you think about some of the methods people use to relax, especially those who do psychic readings or are using biofeedback to get rid of a headache or a sore back, the process begins with visualizing a relaxing place, slowing the breath, and then follows through various self-hypnotic methods that will slow one’s brainwaves and heart beat.

Now, I’m not suggesting Tarot card readers ought to begin with a game of hearts on their computers before spreading out the cards or that Freecell will send energy up and down your chakra system to improve your well being. Perhaps. At any rate, my mindless activities tend to produce the same results as structured or unstructured meditation. The result? I’ve stepped away from the story, relaxed, and allowed it to happen.

My won/lost percentage for Freecell, hearts, chess and other games on my computer isn’t good because once I begin playing them, the next scene of my story is likely to occur at any moment and to be so compelling that I can’t wait to get back to my Word file and start typing again. At that point, I’m ready to quit the game in a second and get back to the larger-order of fun: writing.

I suppose we all have our little tricks and superstitions. One way or another, they seem to be in our writer’s tool kits as the magic behind the curtain that allows our stories to happen.

Malcolm

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8 responses

  1. I like knowing that it’s the “inner you” who does the writing and I think it’s commendable that you trust “him” to do so. I doubt that everyone is that comfortable with himself.

  2. For me, it’s a walk in nature. I’m lucky in that, for me, that means just stepping out my front door and walking around my hill, where I always have ravens, acorn woodpeckers, scrub jays, and the neighborhood mule deer for companions. The mountains are always there, just across the valley. Yes, a walk with Mother Nature always does the trick.