Friday, July 29, 2016

Knitting a story idea

When you have an idea, and it doesn’t make sense, do you give up on it? Should you?

I think it is conventional wisdom that, if the idea seems like it doesn’t make sense, you move on. You don’t want to spend a lot of effort on a thing that’s going to strike readers as false, right? And that’s okay. Sometimes ideas actually don’t work. But I believe that just because sussing out what the plot is takes time, effort, and a little mental gymnastics doesn’t mean it’s always not worth doing.

For example, my initial inspiration for Cassidy was literally, “Acid rain, and a girl with prosthetic legs and amnesia.” Figuring out who she was and why she had amnesia was like sitting on an egg, combined with kneading dough. The most important part actually came to me while I was on the elliptical machine at the gym. There have been times in the writing process when it seems like I’m trying too hard, and the end product is going to feel contrived because I keep having to make room for things, or force things in. And I do think it’s true that when something is forced in, it shows—but that’s what rough drafts are for! You put it in so that you don’t forget it and maybe in a subsequent draft you figure out exactly how it fits.

Say you have an idea, and it’s predicated on a conflict and a character’s reaction to that conflict, and you’re excited and happy and plotting things out in your head… and you realize after an hour or so that the whole foundation for the idea seems contrived, that no sane character would react the way your character reacted. What do? You could start over, try to figure out what the appropriate response would be. You could scrap it and move on. Or… you’re the writer, you’re the worldbuilder, who’s to say that reaction isn’t appropriate? What would have to change to make their reaction appropriate? Would it be internal to the character, or external? Like, maybe your character is mentally ill, or something like that.

Don’t force the ideas that don’t feel right, but remember—you’re the god here. If you want something to work, figure out how it would work, and write it that way.

Happy writing!

Word count: 17,869 (䗍)

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