Writer's Life / Writing

Writing Fiction: Looking for a Fight

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My last writing post was about my foray into the realm of children’s writing. I’m currently riding a burst of energy in my fiction writing. For adults, I mean. And no, this has nothing to do with NaNoWriMo.

I never, ever, ever, not once thought I would attempt to write fiction. Never. Funny thing happened the more that I read it though. The more I read the more a couple characters started prancing around my mind. Pretty soon they had moved from prancing to parading like they owned the place. Shortly thereafter I was typing words on a page in the desperate hope of getting them to calm the heck down. And they did. For a bit.

I now am the disgruntled owner of the “writer” bug. This has manifested itself in efforts in freelance writing, fiction, short stories, my longer piece, children’s writing, essays on Christian thought, and assorted blog posts. And I love it. Some days I feel inspired to write for children; some days I feel inspired to grapple with theological truth that’s eating at me; some days I just want to start and finish something for a feeling of accomplishment (TGFBP – Thank God for Blog Posts – just rolls of the tongue doesn’t it?).

So, I’m currently in my fiction/long book project mode. I’ve been reading Matthew Thomas’s debut novel, We Are Not Ourselves, and the writing and story have triggered ideas for my own use. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that my writing is directly linked to the amount of reading I’m doing at any given time. If I’m not reading, my writing dries up. If I’m reading something, ideas shoot off constantly (not all good ideas, but at least they’re firing).

I’ve been reading. And in the course of two days I’ve edited several peripheral scenes, been exposed to the prankster side of my protagonist, axed at least one character, re-imagined two other characters forcing me to re-imagine their relationships within the community, and developed a few more residents of the neighborhood. I also have uncovered so many questions that my Google dashboard is going to give me a good ol’ eighties-movie-quality screen fritz and spark in a minute.

All from a story that HAS NO CENTRAL CONFLICT! NO STORY ARC!

These missing pieces infuriate me. There’s no way to say what you’re writing about – unless you want to discuss abstract ideas and values – when the most you’ve got are trims and borders, a few dandy characters, and a wandering protagonist.

It’s not looking good that this current explosion of writing fever is going to reveal the crux of the story either. That means I’ll eventually phase out of this productivity. The characters will once again calm down and fade into the recesses of my mind. I’ll turn to one or several other projects and have to wait for the next gust of wind (or book I read) to blow up some drama.

Other than a stiff drink, how do you writers out there cope with obscured information? How do you tease out details (or, you know, the one big internal/external driving force that makes an anecdote more than a story) that keep bumping into your writing and reminding you to “Mind the gap”? Any strategies from NaNoWriMo writers who whip up this stuff in a month?

Well, there, see now, I finished a blog post. Huzzah! Time to gape at fragments of story waiting for my “That’s it!” moment to reveal itself.

6 thoughts on “Writing Fiction: Looking for a Fight

  1. Sooooo this would be why I’m challenging myself to write everyday this month. I have a lot of characters, or a lot of plot lines, and not a lot of cohesion. I’m hoping that forcing myself to write, no matter how terrible the results, will spur some solutions. I tend to put too much in to philosophical musings or character traits and not a lot into interactions. It’s hard to move a story along without dialogue… :/

    • Sounds like we have different sides of the same coin. My plot is just a storyline right now but I’ve got so many random dialogues that I keep wondering if I should look into screenwriting instead. Yeesh! And my philosophical musings end up in dialogues so the whole thing as it is now sounds overtly preachy which is really annoying! I’m not great with subtlety but right now anything would be better. I always comfort myself by saying the first draft is, in most cases, complete crap so….I’m doing great! 🙂

  2. I’m an outliner, so I try to tease the main elements of the story out before I actually start writing. That doesn’t mean I’m restricted–I can always build on what I have (in fact, I often do; for example, seeing where I can introduce more conflict than I previously had). So by the time I get to the writing part, I already know where I’m headed. Every writer functions differently, but for me, this works better than winging it (which I’ve done before only to have to go back and fix major plot holes).

    Glad to hear you’re writing so much!

    • I need to reinstate the outline approach for my random non-fiction pieces – I was an outliner in college and grad school (nerd up!). I may try that with this piece to see if it sparks any ideas, but I’m guessing it’s going to be a largely blank outline since I have no clue where this piece is headed. I like the idea of outlining to avoid plot gaps – I’ve already uncovered, quite accidentally, some significant details that need to be worked out and changed; it seems like with an outline I’d be able to do that better rather than trying to patchwork documents. Thanks for the suggestion!

      • It’s funny how when you just start with a few bullet points–the main plot points in the hook, beginning, middle, and end–you start to add more and more bullet points and the story grows before your eyes. But it’s not always linear at first, and bits and pieces come when we least expect it (like in the shower or out at a movie). 🙂

  3. I’ve noticed the connection between reading and writing too! I’m so inspired by my novel- tackling sisters! I have zero impulse to write a novel but I’m noticing that the more I write, the more my thoughts are sounding like my writing. Like. EVERY THOUGHT I find myself thinking, “Hmmm… I could write about that!” I just usually miss the pivotal step of actually writing it down. :/ it’s fun to hear your frustrations though, something I may have to look forward to! Just like growing up — I’m taking notes, Rebecca 😉 haha!

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