Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Now, how do I do this again?

After months of disciplined work on Project Sparkle, I'm feeling rather adrift. I have a new idea. I have some time to play with it. I know I need to be playful to really mine the depth of this story. All good. Except... I'm not sure how to begin.

I looked up beginnings on Verla Kay's Blueboard, but didn't find anything.

I looked up beginnings on my own blog, and found similar worries from when I was first starting Project Sparkle.

No answers.

But this past Saturday I had a weird experience that may answer my question.

I sat down to write, determined to figure out one of my minor characters. I started a character exercise that I usually find helpful, but couldn't get further than "1. Female." Because every time I closed my eyes and imagined my character, she completely wasn't who I expected her to be. Let's say she was a demolition derby lover*, something I know nothing about. So I googled demolition derby. I read up on it a bit, but wasn't sure it worked with my plot. She was supposed to fall madly in love, except now she seems a bit of a tomboy. She reminded me of a classmate I went to high school with. So I googled my former classmate (what did writers do before Google?) and discovered all sorts of interesting, shocking things. Then I started thinking about my classmate's parents, and my parents, and how all this relates to the type of story I want to tell, and my demolition derby character. Good stuff, except I was out of time for the day. I put away my notebook and headed to the Children's Literature Festival where I was volunteering at Zombies vs. Vampires. Charlie Higson said something about an old black and white movie, and suddenly I knew how to make everything work with my character (no, she's not a zombie).

So, what have I learned? I guess the trick to developing a story is to keep playing and hope that my subconscious will work to bring the characters to life. I'm not quite sure how to plan for that. But for now I intend to just enjoy myself and see what happens.

How do you begin a new story?

*By the way, my character is not actually a demolition derby lover, but a lover of something else equally obscure which I know nothing about. Though it is now tempting to refer to this work in progress as the Demolition Derby novel. Or... maybe now I really do need to write a novel about demolition derbies.


  1. I have trouble sleeping, so I try to use the time for creative purposes. Sometimes I get lucky and the story just presents itself, usually in bits and pieces. Usually it needs a lot more ferreting out and fluffing up before it's a real store, but that's the fun part.

    God knows what writers did before google! I can't even imagine how much of a headache research must have been when you had to go down to the library for every little thing. I'll bet it made writers a little less reclusive, though.

  2. Umm...before it's a real 'story'.


    Why oh why don't I learn to proofread before pressing Post Comment?

  3. Almost always with a character that gets in my face, so to speak. But this new project I'm toying with (it's not even a WIP yet) began with a story idea instead of a character. It's unsettling, which I suppose is good. It's making me stretch, and that's good, too.

  4. Mary: Author Marcus Sedgwick once said a similar thing about using those half-awake times to play with a story. Unfortunately, I'm a little afraid the habit is making me into an insomniac!

    I like the idea that before Google writers were more social... maybe I need to that to heart and get out a bit more!

    Oh, and I ALWAYS rush to press "Post Comment". It's doubly worse making a typo when one's a writer! *cringe*

    Andrea: That IS interesting that you had a story instead of a character. Sometimes I wish there was a simple formula for these things, but if there were, where would the creativity come from? Good luck with it!

  5. Anne, you could always just refer to your novel as "Demo." Works several ways, including being Greek for something along the lines of "folks" or "everybody" (but that's "polloi, isn't it?) or "mob" ... Greek speakers, help me out here.

  6. The MC usually comes to me, then I start scribbling ideas in a notebook. The other characters, setting, and plot come to me piecemeal.

  7. Ohhh, Anne, I like the idea of demo! I'll have to look it up in Greek, too.

    That sounds like how I've been working, too, Medeia. I guess what I don't know is when to actually start writing scenes. With Project Sparkle I was forced to begin to have something to share with my class. In the past, I've kept it all inside until I was absolutely bursting to start writing. I guess it's all just trial and error!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.