Tuesday, May 05, 2009

From the Archive - The very next day

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - www.keepwriting.org - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

Okay, I have to ask - where do daily bloggers get their material? Because the thought of sitting down here again to write is worrying me. Yesterday, I was full of good ideas - well, idea - and I somehow thought that was going to sustain me for the rest of the month. (And I had to pick a 31 day month, couldn't do February, noooo.) But here we are again, blank page ahead.

Where do writers get their ideas? I love science fiction and fantasy, but I have trouble conceiving of how those writers make up worlds out of whole cloth. Future technologies, distant planets, exotic aliens. That's a lot to have to create as concepts before even getting it out on paper. And don't get me started on Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett or Stephen King. Those are some guys with freakishly crazy and huge imaginations. I love their stuff, I eat it up, but I'm afraid that I would fail miserably if I tried to emulate them. Yes, yes, I know I am just starting and they have been writing for a long time, but it's hard to close one of their books and then take a look at my amateur efforts. (Yes, I would like some cheese with my whine, thank you.)

Thinking about it, I realize that my writing ideas tend to come from the every day experiences around me, which I'm sure is where almost all writers begin. My personal foibles get a lot of play. Crazy people around me, especially in traffic, seem to ask to have their stories told. My family - children, parents, grandparents, cousins near and far - all stoke my fire. My ex-husband is the source of a lot of the darker, meaner side of my storytelling. I am game for retelling a version of almost any story I'm told, as long as I can embellish it to make it funny.

I like funny, the kind of funny that is clever and surprising. I like crafting an anecdote to keep some suspense in, keep the ending from being too obvious. If I can get not just a laugh but a snort when I've finished, I feel really successful. This need to get the zingers in means that I have a harder time sustaining a long story, and I get distracted by my need to get the good punchlines in, to the detriment of the story that could be developing.

I think I may have just achieved a breakthrough here, on day two. (Do I have to keep going for days three to thirty-one? Yes, I guess so.) I've got to be willing to tell the story the whole way through, not just run ahead to the funny. Because I don't think a dearth of ideas is really the problem. I think the problem is taking the idea, any idea of the dozens careening around in my head at any one time, and fully developing it without trying to wrap it up too soon and without trying to force the funny or the over-emotive in general. Easier to edit things out than edit things in - one of the things they tried to get us to understand in grad school.

Tomorrow, I think a discussion on going off on tangents, not always in a good way.

~Noelle 07/02/08

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