Progress Update for 1/23

by sbh on Wednesday - 23 January 2008

in Uncategorized

h4. Update

Only half production tonight. I had left a scene for “Without Vision” uncompleted during my last writing session. I finished off that scene, putting me at what felt like a very natural stopping point. Unless the story grows outside of its current walls, I don’t expect it will be more than a few days before it’s done–perhaps a week.

h4. Stories Grow

This seems like a good time to think more carefully about the “growth” of stories. I have said before that, for me, the emergence of a story is a very organic process. Essentially, it all begins with a germ of an idea. This idea is collected in a brainstorming document (created by “OmniOutliner”:, of course), typically in the form of a single sentence or sentence fragment. From the “brainstorm” slush pile, the germ gets moved to a section of the document called “In Progress” (an old favorite phrase of mine–describes my life, really). Absolutely no guarantee exists that the finished draft will even resemble whatever that original sentence or fragment says.

A story is as much a part of me as my arm or leg, yet it definitely exists outside my body. Stephen King compares the process to an archaeologist excavating a dinosaur (or, more to my taste, an ancient ruin). The story exists. The author uses the appropriate tools to expose its form.

Sometimes you begin with a story that you think is simply going to be a humble ancient hut. In the end, you may find yourself standing inside a gigantic temple. This is part of the fun–even when you are playing God, you don’t know the outcome.

“Without Vision” could go in three possible directions. The question in this case becomes what kind of statement the characters want to make. Where do there values lie: government, religion, family. Big, even heady, ideas all. Yet, I don’t feel that I am writing to serve my agenda. I am documenting what these characters are thinking or feeling. In a sense, they control their destiny far more than I do. Sometimes, I’d love to see them do something else–perhaps the “right” thing. But, ultimately, I do feel powerless. Their decisions are determined by their character and their predispositions and the type of story that they involve themselves with.

What I’ve found is that stories tend to grow. What began with this germ of an idea becomes a new world, already in existence, time ticking away. I’m a journalist (admittedly, with unprecedented access) documenting that world.

h4. Problems I’m Seeing in “Without Vision”

Right now, the characters feel flat and static. This is not good, obviously. I know that they are not, because I have an inkling of what they are about to do. But, you can’t have five pages of flat characters before finally getting to some meat.

In addition, the language feels not like mine. This isn’t entirely bad–it just means that I spend a lot more time second guessing word choice. On the flip side, it challenges me–nearly always a good thing.

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