Forum: Fileg's stories

Discussing: process

process

Lyllyn asked
I am curious about the way people build stories. From your forum, it sounds like you start with a line, and then write the rest? I often get a few lines or a scene, but dialogue is usually the key; then I have to fill in around it. How do you go from your inspiration 'lines' to expand to a story?

I have three methods (yes, again, everything in threes. My brain is constructed that way.)

When I write for myself, (writing that is never, never meant to see the light of day or be anything but my own - the hidden away diary’s and journal’s, extreme speculation, unsent letters, poetry constructed in a language I don’t really speak (Beware the Sindarin Villanelle!) or vignettes where I can “Mary perSue” someone to my hearts content if I feel like it) I just sit down and write. I just start at the end, in the middle, wherever I am and write. It tends to be constructed around dialog, but often it has no plan at all. Sometimes they contain lines that seem pretty good, darn it, but I am learning to lift those for re-use, so I don’t consider it a waste.

-- Actually, writing is (with music and love, because you know I have three) one of the things that defies the law of the conservation of matter and energy – they are the things that I believe are never wasted.--


Most of the time, I get a line in my head and I can’t get it to let go, (verse-nuzguls, a tenacious little dwarven subspecies) so I write to feature it. Verse works best for me here because it is meant to do that. Interlocked verse is really good, because you can repeat a line till you feel like you are banging the poem over the head with a hammer. But dialog will often do – I love to write conversations but I never seem to develop any framework to support them.


Writing the prose piece was different. I have never tried to show my prose because my belief is that I have nothing to say – in terms of telling a story. I don’t have a beginning, a middle and an end, (with or without dénouement.) But I do have snapshots, vignettes, and unsupported incidents. I write them for myself, and even when I don’t intend to share them, if I don’t find that they have given rise to a single line somewhere that makes me shiver, they haven’t worked for me. So, I am still writing for the line.

Writing Breathe was really different for me, simply because when I read the challenges, I got an idea. I didn’t really know what to do with that – and since I knew where I was going, my brain said – ok, that’s done, you know how it ends, so you don’t have to write it.


How do you go from your inspiration 'lines' to expand to a story?

This is how I wrote the coda section – and I think that piece is more like my natural style than the beginning was.

Before I wrote the swimming section, I knew in my heart there were three river incidents, and my unconscious supplied me with items that were mythologically important to me so I could use them later. I didn’t do it on purpose - but I would have if I had meant to write the coda.

(for example – Osgiliath has always reflected the brothers to me – the breaking, the separation, the purification by fire and by water. It put Boromir on a grey horse because he was going to come back in a grey high-prowed boat. It gave me the bee-sting because of the arrow - well, you see what I mean, it is much more like writing verse. I don’t expect these things to be visible to a reader, but they are what privately works for me.)

I knew I absolutely needed three lines in the coda – the Blade of Gondor, the repetition of support and the repetition of Boromir’s body becoming one with the river.

“The Blade” was the line I could not bear to change or lose, and because of that, I ended up writing more about Faramir waiting for him by the river than I thought I would when I started.

I wrote this in three parts (surprised?) and then I moved the parts around until I was satisfied with the flow, and with the continuity.

The reeds, which Tolkien mentioned in the cannon, becoming Faramir’s support came to me in a sudden flash, and when I had that image, I knew I had gotten where I wanted to go. (I actually said aloud – but what can Faramir use for support when I have left him nothing but reeds… then I smacked myself in the head. My subconscious is so much smarter than me!)

Then my most excellent Beta pointed out many things, including where I had neglected to write things because I already knew them.



So, does it make the story work for anyone else? I am not sure if I know that yet. I have gotten great input about this little vignette, though and it encourages me.

That is as close as I can get to process, Lyllyn. It always starts out as poetry somehow. Please share how you work, too. I am learning tons out here.


gaudete

 

 

Re: process

I'm not Lyllyn but I can't resist discussing writing ;-) Having done the pages long version of this over at Zen and the Art of Nuzgul Grooming " in Writers' Aids I'll be brief.

I have never tried to show my prose because my belief is that I have nothing to say – in terms of telling a story. I don’t have a beginning, a middle and an end, (with or without dénouement.) But I do have snapshots, vignettes, and unsupported incidents.

Snap! I write plot-what-plot but without the porn ;-) I'm character driven not plot driven.

Me, I usually have my final line and that is what drives me through the story. I'm becoming a little more flexible about that these days though. I write from images too - real life ones reassigned or totally invented ones. Therefore my stuff tends to be heavy on description. Dialogue is my weakness - I have no ear for it, besides I'm the classic shy person who doesn't know how to talk to people - how can I know how my characters should talk? ;-) I also act out chunks of my story - sometimes actually getting up and doing so fully, other times doing it in small motions as I write. I write quite a lot of body language - but whether that is result or cause I'm not sure.

Avon

 

 

Re: process

: I'm not Lyllyn but I can't resist discussing writing ;-)

I agree, Avon. I don't know if I'm doing it to avoid working on a story, or because it's inspirational. I suspect both. But it is fascinating, getting glimpses of how two different authors work.

I am also character driven, and never wrote because (among other deficiencies) I had no idea how people thought up plots. I tend to 'hear' bits of dialogue, or get a specific scene in my brain. Often, this occurs when a character or scene isn't treated the way I envision it, and it is repeated until it becomes fanon. I want to see it another way, often somewhat contrarian, so I must write it myself.

This means I start with the barest skeleton of a story. I have to pick away at it for weeks. (...My subconscious is so much smarter than me!)
I find this, too. The more I write, the more my subconscious releases in bits and pieces, as if in reward for the work already done. By the end, I look back and can't see that the story could go any other way.

Then my most excellent Beta pointed out many things, including where I had neglected to write things because I already knew them. Without my beta I could never flesh things out. I treasure her because she nags me so perfectly and gently "but where are they?" "How did they go from standing to sitting?" "I can't picture the cottage," etc. It really is a credit to her that I go from a skeleton to something that might be postable.

Aii! I have rambled! (well, not unusual.)

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: process

Thanks, Tay, for setting up this thread! (and Lyllyn for inspiring it, and Avon for sharing...) The breeding of ideas is a passion for me, and to see those ideas develop into a story is just like, well, like watching your child grow (sorry about the silly metaphor; don't know what's happening to me this morning)

Anyway, I have enjoyed reading your explanations about what works for you, and I started to think about what works for me (not that I know that anything I write works! Just what I've found that gets me to write the piece) The main motivation is that the nuzgul is so wild that he needs get written at once. I dream all the time; I day-dream, night-dream... and it all started, as Lyllyn said, because sometimes I had hoped that a scene I read or something I saw would end up in a different way, and so my mind refuses to let go until I've crafted an ending that satisfies me (is this a good sign or a bad? I still can't decide myself) So, getting the ideas is not hard for me, because everything I see sparks something; some ideas are, of course, completely uninteresting to others, but they drive me so much, that I write them, or at least, plot them out in my own head.

After I have the idea of what I want to write, I think what comes to mind first is the dialogue. I have a whole bunch of files with possible dialogues for my stories that I just need to write because otherwise I feel they will slip away. Some stories are not even written, but I have the dialogues planned out! (and everytime it seems harder that those dialogues will ever see the light of day...) But, after I have the dialogues, I think I become desperate if I don't have a plot. It's not that I have verything outlined from the beginning (although sometimes that has happened), but I need to have a vision of what I want to do with the characters, and what I can't do because it would not be believable, and what would they do in that given situation, and that usually leads to a huge research process that most likely ends with more ideas and more stories began and unfinished (at least it's enriching) So I start on a parallel process of crafting dialogue and working on plot. Like Lyllyn said, sometimes I play with the idea for weeks until I feel like I've got it, and then I begin (and after this, it's a different story entirely!) As Avon said, I usually try to put myself in the character's place to see what would they do (yes, I have acted them out sometimes ) and even say the dialogues out-loud as if I were in the theater, to see how they would sound and whether I imagine the character doing that. Conversations with people help a lot. The sharing and feedback is just invaluable to me in getting my thoughts and ideas straight. And, most often I go and read some piece to get inspiration. Sometimes it's Tolkien himself, or perhaps some work of fanfiction that I like, and there are plenty of examples of that here; and sometimes reading something that's not Tolkien helps inmensely, especially when my mind gets "crowded" and I need a break... I go for a different kind of read, and the words seem to flow afterwards.

Tay, could you explain more about the thinking in threes process? Why do you think your mind works like that?

Avon, how do you do to polish your descriptions? How do you know when it's too much, and when you have the right words? I am never too sure, and it scares me that I can't do it!

Lyllyn, does it happen often that you 'hear' your characters speak? And, during those weeks that you let the idea 'simmer' what other things do you do to 'nurture' it?


Like Tay said, I'm learning tons here! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Starlight

 

 

Re: process

Avon, how do you do to polish your descriptions? How do you know when it's too much, and when you have the right words? I am never too sure, and it scares me that I can't do it!

Hmmmm... well, it probably is too much and I probably don't have the right words ;-) I worry alot that I slip over the edge into what I call purple prose or what has been described in a writing article I read once as 'a fatty froth of adjectives ' ;-) I think that is exceedingly likely these days simply because I have been told that 'you're good at descriptions' - it increases the temptation to overwrite them. Trying to think about it I'm not sure I do polish my descriptions all that much - when I'm rewriting it is far more likley to be punctuation or dialogue which really gets worked over. When I write I'll often stop every two or three sentences, think over what is to come next, explore the picture that is in my mind and try several ways of turning that picture into words. If I'm lucky the words just sort of come - chicken-bone thin, which I used in 'In Deep Water' just popped into my head as I 'looked' at Faramir's thin little shoulders. On the other hand I sat there for a good ten minutes or so crafting he stuttered forward, like a cart on ice-slicked cobbles. I could see it - kids tend to kick from the knee and it's all splash and turmoil and they 'bounce' up and down and only sloooooowly progress. I could probably have just said that but I was having one of my 'suitcase' (will explain that shortly) moments and wanted something that brought in more information. I thought originally of someone/thing slipping and sliding on wet clay up a hill (and oddly enough I'm now left with a picture of this silly clay road which I didn't even use) but (1) it seemed to need too many words to describe and (2) my impression is that the boys were living in a town. That lead to thoughts of cobbles like I walked on when in England and slippery when icy signs on Aussie mouintain roads. I knew it would get icy there because of what Boromir said when the fellowship were about to go up Mount C. - so I had my image.

Suitcase writing ;-) I was thinking about this after I got off line. It's something I'm increasingly doing consciously. Basically I try to 'pack' traces of bigger storylines, hints at backgrounds, implications of the 'world' I'm cutting a slice of into each sentence. Well, maybe not sentence... I mostly write small stuff - short short stories, vignettes or simply scenes so therefore I probably need to do so far more than those who write whole universes. I keep my universe in my head but I try to make the reader believe that while they are only peaking through the chink in the curtain and can therefore only see the armchair there is in fact a whole loungeroom in there, all furnished in detail. To give some examples from 'In Deep Water' :
*Boromir regretting more and more the waste of a rare holiday from his tutor. - I wanted to highlight his impatience but I also wanted to add in the idea that he would have a tutor and that his nose would be kept pretty close to the grindstone. Also it's 'his' tutor - Faramir is too young to share him and probably hasn't started formal schooling
*His wet hair plastered itself across his face and half-blinded him - the boys would have long hair, at least shoulder length
*Father will let you go out in the boats!” - Denethor cares enough about his sons - and is an involved enough father - to have a rule about them not going out in the boats unless they can swim
*the way he did when he tucked Faramir back into bed after a dark dream. - Boromir has stepped into his mother's place in some ways and there is a real bond of caring

Enough already! I'm sorry - I can go on forever about writing ;-)

Starlight - nice to know I'm not the only person who acts out what they write ;-) Actually I sometimes wish more people would - it really bugs me when people have their characters do something that is physically impossible or even just exceedingly unlikely. I betaed a story once for someone (briefly - she only wanted praise) who had character A have a screaming nightmare and character B rush into his room and turn around and sit on his bed (you wouldn't go straiht to the screamer? *snort*) and then wind up holding him in a way that was physically impossible. She didn't want to know though... sigh...

It sounds like you should try a dialogue only piece, if dialogue is what you find easiest.

Avon

 

 

Re: process

That's interesting, Lyllyn - thanks for sharing it. I've nver really worked with a beta so I find the idea slightly odd but fascinating to hear about.

Often, this occurs when a character or scene isn't treated the way I envision it,

Oh yeah, been there!

Avon

 

 

Re: process

This is a really interesting thread - thanks for all the long and detailed posts.

Lyllyn wrote:

I am also character driven, and never wrote because (among other deficiencies) I had no idea how people thought up plots.

That's it exactly! With one exception, I have only managed to write short first person vignettes - I cannot really imagine writing anything else. I just have to hear the voice in my head and usually I still make quite a meal of the writing. There was only one occasion when the character just popped into my head and started talking and wouldn't shut-up until I had transcribed him onto paper. It was a bit like being possessed! - but that's only happened once. That story does have quite a lot of plot in it, but it sort of emerged on it's own as the character told his tale to me.

I have only written a couple of short passages that involve authorial description of action and I found that incredibly difficult. Reading it now I know that I put in too many adverbs. The thought of more than a few lines of dialogue brings me out in a sweat!

Andria

 

 

Re: process

Lyllyn, does it happen often that you 'hear' your characters speak? And, during those weeks that you let the idea 'simmer' what other things do you do to 'nurture' it?

Starlight, Sometimes I 'hear' them, although not in their voices, more like someone is reading the line to me. And simmering, well usually I'm writing little bits only, and struggling like crazyto get more. The two things I've found that help:
exercise- during exercise I'm in this mindless state and sometimes get bits of the story that expand it or solve problems.
discussion - finding someone willing to talk (email or IM) about the character/history/scene is immensely helpful.
I don't plot anything out in advance; I don't know how. My current story started as 'no one has shown me the Glorfindel I envision' and I started writing. The plot is thin, I fear - the journey from the coast to Lindon. I find the character pieces like the two Witch-king stories a whole lot easier.

I think I am better as an editor or nonfiction writer, but this site has encouraged my foray into fiction which I find an interesting ride. Like dialogue, I can write nonfiction fairly easily in terms of putting the words down. It's the research and organization which makes me sweat. I do find myself doing what I think must be an inordinate amount of research for the fiction as well, but my uncertainty with the craft could be the reason. It's a great way to procrastinate actually writing.

Avon wrote: I've nver really worked with a beta so I find the idea slightly odd but fascinating to hear about.

Betas can be your best friend! I will say that if you post something in beta on HASA and get interested and involved readers, your forum can do the same thing for you. I work with AfterEver, and we have very different strengths, which is a bonus. She is always looking for description, and I put it in as an afterthought most of the time.

The thought of more than a few lines of dialogue brings me out in a sweat!
It is interesting how different all of our strengths are, Andria. Description or plot is pulling teeth for me, but I can write dialogue all day long.

So how do others work? Anyone plot it in advance, or does it just grow?

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: process

Betas can be your best friend! I will say that if you post something in beta on HASA and get interested and involved readers, your forum can do the same thing for you.

Yep, I've really enjoyed using that system. Once I co-wrote a story with a friend (or at least we were friends by the end) and that was like having a beta. She was in Engalnd, I was in Oz and we started with only the briefest outline and just took turns to write the next chunk and then e-mail it to the other to edit and add the next bit. That was a brilliant learning experience for me.

So how do others work? Anyone plot it in advance, or does it just grow?

Nah, don't plot it out much at all - may only know that finishing line. I've got this Elrond and Aragorn story queued up in my brain and I know lines here and there (but they are still in a slippery amorpheous (sp???) state), a mood I want to convey, an analogy I want to draw, a probable title and little else. Of course it may vanish when I try to put it to paper or turn tainted ;-) Of course being me there s precious little actually going to happen anyway ;-) I can't talk my stories out to much before I write them or I lose the incentive to write them.. I have a friend I do oral stories with - back and forth - and I'd never write them down - or use one of my real ideas in them.

My turn for a question ;-) How do you feel about your own stories? Do you think that you are much of judge of them? I tend to go through stages with them - I may love them when I write them but usually I then go through a period of disliking them sometimes to the point where I abandon them. Then I may come back to them months or years later and fall in love with them again. For me there's always a taint in them when I compare them to other people's stories ;-) Certainly I'm no judge when I'm close to them - the story I love now may turn out to be trash given two weeks distance ;-) The story I loved the most ever - carried it with me for about a week constantly rereading it after it had just poured out of me - was pretty much trash and I would never publish it (with 10 years distance I can see why it had such resonance with me - talk about instant therapy on paper ;-))

Avon

 

 

Re: process

My turn for a question ;-) How do you feel about your own stories? Do you think that you are much of judge of them? I tend to go through stages with them - I may love them when I write them but usually I then go through a period of disliking them sometimes to the point where I abandon them. Then I may come back to them months or years later and fall in love with them again. For me there's always a taint in them when I compare them to other people's stories ;-) Certainly I'm no judge when I'm close to them - the story I love now may turn out to be trash given two weeks distance ;-) The story I loved the most ever - carried it with me for about a week constantly rereading it after it had just poured out of me - was pretty much trash and I would never publish it (with 10 years distance I can see why it had such resonance with me - talk about instant therapy on paper ;-))

I know that I can't judge well at all. When I'm intensively working on it and polishing I love it when I'm done. At a distance of a few weeks, all the weaknesses start to show, and it only gets worse as time goes on. When I read some of the excellent stories posted here and then look at mine- well it's disheartening and inspiring at the same time. But having started writing fiction less than a year ago, having written nothing since school- lo, these many years ago- it's something to pursue, not a goal I expect to reach.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: process

It's been great to share with you all! And, this is just a fascinating topic. I'll put what you suggest to practice, and then I'll let you know. Thanks very much. What you have all said has inspired a new set of questions (it seems that ask is pretty much the only thing I do!) Thanks Avon and Lyllyn for answering to my previous ones.
Now, coming back to the plot issue...

Lyllyn wrote:
I am also character driven, and never wrote because (among other deficiencies) I had no idea how people thought up plots.

Andria wrote:
That's it exactly! With one exception, I have only managed to write short first person vignettes - I cannot really imagine writing anything else.


I know what you all mean! Vignettes is all I have been writing lately. I think I may have been writing for every possible challenge up at HASA, and still have about three or so wip that have been gathering virtual dust for a while. What is going on with me! But, this raises a very important question: How is it that people craft a plot? With the few stories that I am writing that do have a plot *grins*, I think it has come as a result of analysis and research. This sounds crazy. What I mean is, while I am trying to come up with a plot I read too much, and then my mind won't stop working until I've come up with a situation that seems satisfactory and interesting. i think I can't start a story until I know I have that situation, and some stories I've started remain in draft state because I feel a lack of conflict and I can't resolve it. The process is in itself somewhat tiring, or, perhaps that is not the word, but... it gives me a claustrophobic sort of feeling because my mind won't let me do anything else (literally) until I have that conflict set up. I wish at this stage I would dare to start on something with absolutely no idea of where it's going...
Now, after I've a fairly good idea of my conflict, it does not mean that I have every detail underlined, I just have a place where I want to go, but there can be several paths to get there. That part of the work is incredibly fun, and challenging, too.

Lyllyn wrote:
I don't plot anything out in advance; I don't know how. My current story started as 'no one has shown me the Glorfindel I envision' and I started writing. The plot is thin, I fear - the journey from the coast to Lindon. I find the character pieces like the two Witch-king stories a whole lot easier.
I liked your Glorfindel piece. And, I think you are on the right track with it I seriously do. I like how the whole thing got started, and I think it is because, since you began because there was something else you wanted to see that no one was giving you, you will let your impressions, thoughts, feelings filter through that writing, and that is priceless.


One thing I noticed is that most of us have had at some point an experience with a character that just demanded his/her tale be told, and I just wondered... who were they? How did it happen? Were they characters you loved, or did the muse come out of an unexpected place? How did it all turn out? And, why do you think that particular character did it, and no other? This is incredibly interesting... why does that phenomena happen, anyway? It's happened to me with a story out of the appendices. Why, I have no idea, but the thing just came to me. I have a whole novel planned out for Arvedui and Firiel now, and have written just one chapter when they have not even met each other. I've dreamed about this so much that I know now what happens when they marry, how does she feel when her father Ondoher dies and how does he comfort her, how do they manage Gondor's rejection... but have not written past that first Arvedui chapter...

My turn for a question ;-)
There you go!

How do you feel about your own stories? Do you think that you are much of judge of them? I tend to go through stages with them - I may love them when I write them but usually I then go through a period of disliking them sometimes to the point where I abandon them. Then I may come back to them months or years later and fall in love with them again. For me there's always a taint in them when I compare them to other people's stories ;-) Certainly I'm no judge when I'm close to them - the story I love now may turn out to be trash given two weeks distance ;-)

I'm so glad I'm not the only one! This is exactly what happens to me! I write a story and I think it's great, and then when I go read it a couple of days later I find so many mistakes in it, so many things I'd change, that go all chicken-y and quail at the thought of ever posting such a work. That's why I never post anything just after it's written. I let it hang around for a week or so, then go back and revise, then wait a while, then revise again and then post, and hope for the best Now, how do we feel this way? Is it our fear taking over? I've learned at school that every design is worthy of re-design (everything we do is not an absolute; there will always be something or other to be improved) and I guess that can be applied to writing, as well. Or, is it that we are really bad?

But having started writing fiction less than a year ago, having written nothing since school- lo, these many years ago- it's something to pursue, not a goal I expect to reach.
This reminded me of a story I heard about two little boys who were very excited about building a tree-house. All summer long they worked, gathering materials from wherever they could and day after day trying and working until the house was finally finished. They climbed up, sat and contemplated the beauty of their work. Then, came down and never went up again. The man said it was the process that had kept them interested, much rather than the achievement of their ultimate goal. Could the same thing be said about writing? perhaps not always, but maybe it happens sometimes that as we plan and plot and think and write we are very interested and into it, and it is the enriching experience of planning that is fulfilling, and we write for the sake of it, not just to get the piece completed. Could it be?

Have a great weekend,
Starlight

 

 

Re: process

I have so much catching up to do! Weekends are always a difficult time for me to get writing time, since I like to be with Jim as much as I can when he is home. (Good thing he needs writing / drawing time too!)

And this past weekend, I had the pleasure of doing something I have never done before – my most excellent beta finished her first piece of fiction, and we spent tons of time on the phone while I beta’ed for her!

So, while I am catching up, please go peek at Chris’ excellent story The Blood Of Kings in the Father’s Day challenge. And tell her to write more!!

tay

 

 

Re: process

So, while I am catching up, please go peek at Chris’ excellent story The Blood Of Kings in the Father’s Day challenge. And tell her to write more!!

I'd been reading along with this thread, just absorbing all your comments. It's been good to see just how others work through the writing process.

Anyway, I noticed this re: Chris's story and wanted to tell you I had already seen it and thought it was quite good. It's really nice to see you encouraging her, being her beta and suggesting her story to others as you have. So my congratulations to you also on a job well done!

~Nessime

 

 

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