In today’s Journal
* Quote of the Day
* Topic: Story Ideas
* A slow start
* The Numbers
Quote of the Day
“A government of, by, and for the people requires that people talk to people, that we can agree to disagree but do so in civility. If we let the politicians and those who report dictate our discourse, then our course will be dictated.” Donna Brazile (thanks to the Passive Guy)
Note: Beyond hinting at censorship, the Quote of the Day has nothing to do with writing. I included it only because it is so closely related to the tone of the short story I wrote recently and to an excellent conversation I had this morning. (Thanks, AH.)
Topic: Story Ideas
I enjoyed an excellent if relatively brief conversation this morning with an astute reader who emailed to ask me specific questions about the motivations of the character in one of my short stories. Of course, I could only tell her my opinions. I didn’t know his motivations, though I believe my assumptions about them ran mostly in parallel with hers.
And that conversation caused me to rediscover the great joy to be found at wondering about other people’s motivations, what causes them to do the things they do or to reveal certain things in their thoughts while guarding certain secrets even within the confines of their own mind. (I’m talking about the protagonist in my story here, not my co-respondent.) After all, you never really know from one moment to the next who or what might be listening in even to your innermost thoughts.
And some great story ideas come from exactly that sense of wonder: Wondering what motivates a character —
(or your neighbor or the greeter at your local Walmart or the guy who’s coming out of a store as you’re going in or the other person in the doctor’s waiting room or the person who lodges her shopping cart directly in the center of the aisle as if she really is not aware other people are in the aisle with her and want to get past or any of the seemingly dozens of other people you encounter each day)
to do something or to believe something or to believe in something?
And once you’ve determined the imaginary motivation, wondering what will happen next: What will the character’s actions or thoughts cause him to do or cause to happen in the next frame of the story?
But take caution: You’re only wondering what will happen next, not deciding it. Deciding it will cause the story to fizzle out from boredom. Every Single Time.
And all of that and more caused me to realize that the short story I wrote a couple of days ago, “Vignette from a Third-Floor Window,” was actually only one scene from a full novel, or maybe even a series, as vividly illustrated by my co-respondent and her questions.
After all, something — and probably a great many somethings — happened before that scene, didn’t they? And certainly a great many more somethings happened afterward. I just didn’t hang around to watch and listen.
Fortunately, the only way for me to find out what happened before or after that scene is to put my fingers on the keyboard and allow the character himself (and the other main characters him- and herself, and still more characters who haven’t been cast yet, much less on-stage) to reveal all of that.
So today, in the midst of the opening of The Journey Home: Part 6, which is moving along just fine, I have to consider setting that one aside long enough to write this other one, the one I inadvertently started with “Vignette….” Or I might spend another day or two or twelve on Part 6 and then start the new novel. Who knows? I don’t.
Quite a conundrum. However it works out, further stories in the FOH series will be there, waiting. That journey, that rifle shot into the galaxy, will continue even while I’m writing the other, Earth-bound story.
And in a couple of weeks, when I’ve finished either The Journey Home: Part 6 or a novel I haven’t quite started yet, I’ll return to the other one. Or I’ll begin the next novel in the new series or The Journey Home: Part 7 or I’ll write something else entirely. Am I a lucky guy, or what? Well, yes, I am.
And at the risk of repeating something I’ve said time and time again, the best way to learn a new story is still to sit back and do nothing actively beyond allowing the fingers to move over the keyboard. The best way to learn a new story and satisfy the curiosity remains to sit back and allow the characters to tell the story they’re living.
They’re really open and friendly that way when you allow them to be.
I had a very slow start to The Journey Home: Part 6. This can be normal and is no cause for concern, especially given my rambling above.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Kris Read the Cave Creek Novel” at https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/kris-read-the-cave-creek-novel/. Of special interest to those in Dean’s Shared Worlds class.
See “6 Outside-the-Box Book Marketing Ideas” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/6-outside-the-box-book-marketing-ideas/. I didn’t read this but I thought some of you might want to.
The Journal…………………………………… 880 words
Writing of The Journey Home: Part 6 (novel)
Day 1…… 1628 words. Total words to date…… 1628
Writing of The Vignette Novel (tentative title)
Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX
Total fiction words for January……… 62667
Total fiction words for the year………… 62667
Total nonfiction words for December… 16320
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 16320
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 78987
Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 55
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 215
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31