So many books. So little time.
A picture is worth a thousand words
Words can create pictures too.
The power of imagination.
A good conversation is a good life
Random thoughts on the how and why of writing
"Write," urged my idling brain. "Don't you know that an idle brain is the devil's workshop."
True, I thought. Not a bad idea, I thought. Write a story. All those stories I grew up with. The stories I concocted from those stories that I grew up with. The stories of how those stories were concocted….I could peel layer on layer, and you would be justified in saying, "Now wait a minute. Is writing the only activity an idle brain could/should undertake?" Not at all. Why my brain urged writing is a whole another story, for another day.
I went down to the neighborhood coffee shop. You know how, the noisier the environment, the easier it is to achieve a quietness within? Like being in the eye of the storm. So there I was. People chattered. The coffee-grinder ground. The foam machine hissed. Waves of words rose and receded. I was drowning in the noise. And from the depths of my being arose an ancient flood-story.
Perfect. A flood story from a long-ago time, a far-distant land. Wherein there is a wise and compassionate hero who is the keeper of the earth. A tiny fish with a mysterious ability. A flood that covers the earth. Seven wise men. This is a story that would write itself, I thought. Except it didn't.
It got mired down in a hundred and one questions. What was the focus? Was the story about the wise earth-keeper? or about the mysterious minnow? Who should the readers root for? What was the 'why' of the story? Questions, questions.
There was a game we played as youngsters: we'd gather together and each one tell a story. No repetitions allowed. The most popular story was this doggerel:
There was a queen
There was a king
Then they both died.
End of my story. Sing, sing, sing.
We all waited, fingers crossed, hoping no one else chose that as their story, groaned when someone did. Our game had suspense. It had drama. It had creativity.
My story fell flat. It was trying to coast along on the "I'm a myth. Take me as I am," sentiment. Agreed that myths are stories that have stood the test of time. They explain the natural world. They are explications of human behavior. But they may not necessarily be well crafted. The art is to keep that myth/folktale/source material intact, but write a story that will make the reader care.
So I'm rewriting now, keeping these points in mind:
• Give the hero a clearly defined goal.
• Make the problem (desire / obstacle) loom large. Does not have to be world-shaking. But remember, each story is a world unto itself. Within that world give importance to the inciting event.
• How does the main character work towards that? Show the steps, and missteps. Carry the reader along. As they say in mathematics, 'Show the working'.
• Are there other characters? What does the hero learn from them? what does he teach them?
• Do events change the hero's path towards the goal?
• Does the story world change? How?
• What is the takeaway? the reader's reward for staying with us?
And all this within 500 words?!
Let the adventure begin.