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Story Conception

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 04:43:43 GMT

How do you conceive your stories during the writing process? For example, my best friend's characters literally talk to her and tell her what has happened, or just react to her immediate surroundings and link it back to them. (I keep saying that being an author is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. And no, my friend isn't crazy.) It's a great way for her to learn their characterizations. Conversely, I see events unfold and hear the dialogue, but the characters don't interact with me. It's not necessarily the muse striking, it's more that I'm being granted a glimpse into another world, and I'm acting as its medium. The muse strikes during moments of philosophical consideration when an idea (through a long train of thought) blossoms randomly and fits perfectly with one story or another, and I literally stop everything I'm doing to stare into space for a few moments, registering the implications of the idea. Struck dumb and speechless, as it were. How does it happen for all of you?

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 04:05:28 GMT

Music. Oh man. Yeah, I create soundtracks for my novels. Other times, I have a steady instrumental playlist going, of either straight instrumental music or movie scores. I can't seem to write properly with lyrical music, unless it happens to really fit with a scene. I think I spent an entire evening with Ryan Adam's cover of "Wonderwall" on repeat while I worked on a particularly heartbreaking chapter. That said, i go for walks constantly and listen to music. Usually I'm lost in daydreams, but sometimes a song will make something click and an element in one daydream fits into a major aspect in a novel. Or I'm listening and playing Solitaire and daydreaming, and I'll work through an issue that way. Very convenient. The music often leads me along and opens opportunities. It also constrains me to it's set path, so if I want to slow down on a scene before the song's bridge or climax occurs, I have to pause everything an work in silence to keep a hold of whatever emotion was evoked.

Daniel B.
Tue, 28 Mar 2017 13:35:24 GMT

nbartley03 - I definitely hear you on keeping an steady instrumental playlist going! The walks are great, too - there's a dark, secluded park nearby that I often retreat into. Although, because I know words seldom just flow and there's a need to focus on syntax, it's rare that I can keep a score going for an entire writing session. At times, I have to turn the music down to "see" better, the same way I would turn the music down while driving through traffic to "see" better, if that makes any sense.

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 18:43:00 GMT

Daniel B, it does make sense. Only in that case, it's allowing you to focus and concentrate better without added distraction. With writing, though, if we're visual writers, then it really is "see" in the sense of daydreaming sharper. It's that same focus without the distraction of a tune's tone pulling us into another direction.

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 15:16:43 GMT

I tend to discuss the narrative with my characters. It's harder if I have a concept but am not familiar with the character(s) yet. Once I'm satisfied with who the characters are, the plot sort of fills itself in.

Sun, 02 Apr 2017 22:13:19 GMT

You discuss it with them? Like... "I'm thinking about making you do this. Would that work?" and they answer you? My best friend does have discussion with the characters, but that's mostly what they're reacting to. The plot events are separate things.

Mon, 03 Apr 2017 01:57:44 GMT

Well, no. It's more like they tell me what they've done and I try to get it to work in the plot. Sometimes they have conversations with each other and I listen in. Sometimes I take the place of one of the characters and ask the other character why he/she did something, and then they tell me. It's not really a planned conversation, but they sometimes just start talking.

Mon, 03 Apr 2017 02:00:43 GMT

And I don't always plot out the story step by step. Usually I have an idea of a beginning, but the rest works itself out in my first draft through the characters. Sometimes I have to scrap whole sections of it as I go in order to get to the ending that evolves as I write. Sometimes I know what the ending should be, but usually only on bigger pieces. Short stories are more fluid.

Sun, 09 Apr 2017 19:51:07 GMT

That is so interesting that her characters talk to her like that- as you had mentioned in a previous thread. I would say that my characters talk to me, but not directly. They are more distant and pestering. They don't really tell me much about them, but rather bug at me to give them some time on the page. I suppose they only actually talk to me when I'm writing-- the rest of the time they sit there staring judgmentally at me asking me when I'm going to let them tell their story. So I guess I would say that I always start with the character and the situation and plot usually follow afterward. Although with a recent project I'm working on, I started writing one sister's POV and the other character actually butted in and convinced me to switch narrators for the time being. Very interesting.

Mon, 10 Apr 2017 02:44:59 GMT

I would liken my own process to a silent observer. I'm watching the story happen in my own head much like a dream. I like the idea of speaking to my characters, but I'm afraid I would contaminate their world. The fourth wall is definitely there although I feel emotionally attached to them.

Mon, 10 Apr 2017 23:59:28 GMT

My characters never cooperate with me. I get the idea, plan it out, and then the characters tend to grab the story away from me and run. I've done things like talking as them, and to them, pretending to be interviewing them, and have ended up spending entire days daydreaming about what could happen next. Though none of that ever pans out. Thanks, characters. Music is definitely a big thing for me though. It's a lot easier for me to get a story idea down and in the works if have a soundtrack kind of planned out. It also helps if that's the only time I listen to that music because then, if I hear it on the radio, or if I hear that specific genre of music, I immediately get back into the writing zone.

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 00:25:57 GMT

I use music. Usually my characters start talking or I hear scenes being narrated just as I'm trying to fall asleep. I must write it down or I can't sleep and won't remember it later. The same thing happens in the car, so I write at red lights. You can never find a red light when you really need one. If a scene doesn't sound write or I can't figure out what to do next, I read it five times before I go to bed and ask myself to find a fix. I usually either have the answer before I go to sleep or the words come to me when I wake up.

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 19:17:12 GMT

How do you all react when you get an idea worth pursuing? When I'm struck by an idea, I'm literally struck dumb ("I just had an apostrophe." "I think you mean an epiphany." "Lightning just struck my brain." "Well that must have hurt."). Everything stops; I stop what I'm doing and stare into space as the idea unfolds visually and implications settle in. Sometimes I have to mentally reach for the idea and gather it in because it simply brushed by. Then I'm able to fully understand the idea--it registers and settles. Sometimes this takes a few minutes of me staring off into various points with a shocked or blank expression on my face. People have asked if I was okay during those moments. Does anyone else react like this?

Wed, 12 Apr 2017 22:04:25 GMT

Nbartley, that sounds like what I'm talking about above. The first time I have an idea for a story, it begins to play out in my head, and I just sit and finish it as much as I can regardless of work, friends, etc. Then I either rush to write it down, as I usually do with my short stories, or I let it fester and hope it takes root in my brain, like what I'm doing with my first novel. My novel will end up being a result of memory evolution. I have notes that will help me stay on track, but otherwise, the story will be survival of the most memorable ideas.

Daniel B.
Wed, 19 Apr 2017 01:09:47 GMT

I definitely feel similar to you, nbartley and you as well, CultureShockLewis. When an idea comes, everything else can wait. What I also find helps me during these moments is writing down what excited me about the idea before anything else. The idea can be half-baked, missing characters, or needing conflict, but if I write down what excited me about the idea, then I can summon that same feeling again when I come back to it with more time. Though, I've never been asked if I were okay during those moments...If you're driving or cooking, stay safe!

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 03:44:49 GMT

Oh, I like the idea of detailing why I like the idea. I've read through notes before that made sense to me but failed to interest me in any way, and I wondered if I just lost some part of the story that would have excited me. Now, I'm going to have to write down why I like this idea.

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 21:44:19 GMT

Music definitely helps me conceive a story--I have a playlist for each of my works-in-progress that capture the tone I'm trying to convey in the story. I really see my novels as movies in my head; my job as the writer is simply to transcribe what I see in the scene. Occasionally I'll try to interact with the characters directly (imagining a coffee shop interview of sorts with them), but I find it more successful to observe from a distance.

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 06:08:06 GMT

Once I've actually got a good enough idea of what the story's about and who the characters are (and both of those things can change a lot during the writing), if it's a character-based piece then the story tends to develop during conversations. I almost never plan those out, but once the characters are in situations where they have to be talking to each other, they start saying things that drive the story in directions which I often didn't intend. This often takes me a few tries - I'll write a conversation, and then leave it for a while. In that time (usually a day or two) it will be replaying somewhere in my head, and something incongruous might pop up that I hadn't noticed - a voice being 'off' or a statement made that is out of character, or a statement not made that that character would have been bound to make. Most of my story development happens in these sorts of conversations.

Thu, 19 Jul 2018 23:45:51 GMT

I love reading about how everyone comes up with their story ideas! For me, it kind of comes t me scene by scene. So before I start I get a scene or a snippet of conversation stuck in my head, and I outline a story surrounding that. It all plays like a movie in my head that I'm trying to write down!

Fri, 20 Jul 2018 17:33:30 GMT

I usually have to combat "writers block," head on, so instead of waiting for inspiration, I ask myself, "What would *I* want to read a story about? What does my ideal story look like?" And sometimes I write down what elements of a story I'd like to read, what sort of tone I'm in the mood to read. For a longer project, I'll spend a lot of time plotting and writing characters, as if I were in charge of a DnD campaign. So for me, it's all pretty deliberate I guess. Each time I come up with an idea, I'll try to put it in context of a story and how it would all work together.

Fri, 20 Jul 2018 20:09:29 GMT

Occasionally I'll hear a weird turn of phrase in the middle of the work day, and my brain will spin a story out of control. There are never enough details to work with things just the way they come, but I can usually starting piecing things together from that first random blip of information.