It’s the only way to write – your story must mean so much to you that a belly grumbling for food can’t distract your attention from your writing muse. It must grab inside your heart and not let go till you get it down in a computer or journal. It has to keep you up way past bedtime, demanding research, character sketches, and plot plans before allowing pillow face plants. Passion for story should be your motivator, and it must power a writing impulse careening at breakneck speed down the narrative track, not giving up a single phrase or story twist.
Sadly, I read many articles from people who say they get bored with their own work and can’t complete the tale. They start with an idea that chases them around the block for a few months, then are sidelined by the drudgery of writing every day. Polishing dress shoes becomes essential, another frappe calls from the local café, and the story wanes in the journal, ink smeared by drops of sweat left behind as they fled. The computer monitor goes to sleep. They claim to be bored because they know the outcome of the tale. The characters, based on friends and acquaintances, are too familiar. The plot, another murder mystery or fantasy or romance, bodes predictable. They have lots of story ideas, so they say, yet not one completed manuscript.
I think they’re choosing the wrong stuff to write – the wrong plot, genre, characters, situation, or crisis. Maybe they’ve chosen stories similar to the published books they enjoy reading. Maybe their writing is too derivative of what’s popular and they have little freshness to add to the catalogue. Perhaps they really aren’t writers so much as glory hounds, seeking literary fame the way teenagers imagine themselves as Olympic heroes.
I’ve never encountered such doldrums. My worst problems are not a drop in my incentive to write and rewrite, but a lack of time to do so because of other obligations. In fact, my determination to get my stories written and eventually published remains as high as when I first began to type (yes, type) out a story. Story isn’t one fabulous idea about a weird or compelling thing that happens to someone, or an iconic character who discovers one important crusade in his life, or a citizen who intercepts a singular brazen act of sabotage. It can’t be one thing because life isn’t composed of just one thing. It’s a complex and multidimensional constellation of people, eras, and moments. Telling such a story takes the skill to be comprehensive with plot and subplot, nuanced regarding character development, and obsessed about craftsmanship. A writer must be relentless about writing the story, beginning to end and all the parts in between.
I like to write but I write about what interests me, “like” being on both ends of the spectrum. Sometimes it isn’t like as much as it is loathe, but my feelings are intense. It’s key, I think, to staying with a story. I develop my characters fully, not only the protagonist and the antagonist, but secondary and even marginal characters. Everyone is important. Each has a history and contribution, not just a convenient link to propel the plot forward, but a significant portion of the development of the story borne on their shoulders. The location of my story is a place I love or hate, and I’ll spend hours investigating or creating it, even building a fictional home at the top of a real hill. I’ll research a moment in history to find out how a true historical incident developed, who was responsible for the events that identify it, what were the consequences of its treaties or partitioning or the destruction of its culture. I’ll find figures who represent the moment and the place and write portions of smaller story elements that fit the larger tale. Each aspect I consider expands the story and gives me something else to write about.
I can’t write if I’m not enthralled by my own stories, but because I am, I do write. I complete a story, and I move on the next story that grabs inside my heart. If you are lackadaisical about your story and stumbling as you try to write, you’re on the wrong track. Find another tale to tell. My stories mean so much to me. Yours must mean as much to you. Good writing, fellow writer.
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