Monday, January 13, 2014

Some Stories Are Hard To Tell For A Reason.

I've been making up little stories, spinning fabricated fantasies in one form or another since I was quite a young man. At first I did it without realizing it; telling myself little elaborate daydreams I could imagine while playing. Over time though, I was introduced through school to the notion of writing them down. Which eventually led me to refining them - at first for my yearly portfolio for class and later for myself.

And in all that time I cannot stress to you one very unmistakable truth that even now haunts me; some stories are just hard to tell. It may be a wonderfully glorious idea in your head. Maybe it was a gripping action scene that set you off to develop further. But at the end of the day, despite all your best efforts, you find yourself struggling to make it work.

It happens. Not every story is a gleaming gem that just rolls right out of your mental manufacturing center. Sometimes you just can't quite get the protagonist's tone just right, or maybe the character just doesn't even work like you want it to. I've even found myself working on a story under the grip of a passionate fervor only to open my eyes a short while later and realize that there was just nothing there. The scene may have been amazing, the intro a wonderful hook, or perhaps the character just dripping with detail and depth. But the plot just wasn't going anywhere, or the world around the little segment was simply absent.

Does that mean the story is not worth telling? I'm not going to lie and say that I don't have countless scraps of paper, notes or even text files that just trail off with such story shards. You might say it goes with the territory of being a writer, even if you just do it as a hobby. But that doesn't mean that those tattered would-be tales aren't worth telling.

Just because you started a story only to run into a roadblock of sorts doesn't ever mean that you should abandon it. In fact, I would wager that it is those very stories that we struggle with that slumber with the promise of elevating us towards increasing our skills. A craftsman may lack the tools or technique to complete a project the first time he attempts it, but by facing it he can identify his shortcomings and thereby begin to address them.

Actually, I had an idea for a story some many months back but due to my own lack of confidence coupled with my recent Carpal Tunnel issues I keep shelving it. I've worked up some detailed notes, tinkered with analyzing a potential plot - I've even attempted writing it's opening several times. And every time I find myself at a loss. But, you know what? I'm not going to give up. I had the idea for this tale, and I really believe that if I knuckle down and keep coming back to it that I can get a handle on it and tell a story that might just be better than I thought myself capable.

In order to do just that I'll have to get back to the core of things. First of all, you have to really know just what your story is going to be about. Where will it lead and who will it involve? To combat my own unease with starting the story it is imperative that I establish exactly who my protagonist is, their tone, traits, flaws and in general everything about them. I shouldn't be struggling with speaking for them, much less grasping at their motivations.

If you have started to write a story and find yourself having to ask things like; "What lead them to this point," or "Why are they the hero," then you need to start over. Even with a general idea of what you want the plot to be, who your hero or heroine is etc. you have got to lay your groundwork. Without some structure to build on you are only going to be fast and loose with the details. And if you, the person shaping the story, don't know where it is going you run the dangerous risk of derailing it before it begins.

So, take my advice - for whatever it's worth; plan ahead, plan some more, and then take every note you can. I know that is exactly the advice I plan on making use of. I'm going to review every aspect of my notes thus far and then start asking myself every question I can think of to refine my story. You can never have too many notes, and if you have details you don't need, characters you may not use as much or even aspects of the setting that never become necessary it doesn't hurt you by having them.