Wednesday, December 5, 2012


The idea approaches, tentative, almost like one of the greeters at an airport, holding up a sign with your name on it.  Under those circumstances, you will be assisted to gathering your luggage, then given a hassle-free ride to your destination.  Under these more complex circumstances, the idea wants to make sure it has the correct writer.

This is not so fanciful as it may seem,  Before you and the idea get through with one another, a small laundry list must be devised.

What is the story?  You can't rush off in a clatter of action verbs. At the least, you need to see the major incident, impacting one or more of the characters.

Whose story is it?  Okay, if it's long enough,there can be several points of view.  In any case, we need concrete information.  Is it Dorothy's POV or the Wizard's?  Is it Sir Wilfrid of Ivanhoe, or, tee hee, Rebecca?

What is the goal?  Does Dorothy really want to get home to Kansas?  Does Sir Wilfrid want respect and stature among the Norman invaders for the Saxons?  Does Ahab want to sell cans of white whale meat?

And of course the foundation for the whole thing, Who are you?  This has to do with the notion of who the you is who is accepting delivery of this story,internalizing it, living with it until it has become something neither of you intended but at the same time has morphed into something you both regard with a sense of having accomplished something.

     The reductionist truth here is that story is a recipe, a formula for ingredients.  Do you add the corn meal first?  Do you use an egg?  Two?  Do you go so far as to use buttermilk instead of regular or skim?  You are the baker, the cook, the chef.  You bring energy and some sense of why this story has to be told in this particular way.

     You will not be able to please all readers, so give up on trying.  The more you sound like yourself, the more probable you will draw a readership.

To get to the you in Yourself, let’s look at your personal and political politics, which is the same thing as asking how involved you are with the worlds about you.

Some writers, in particular those who find contemporary social, moral, and economic events painful or tedious or downright uncomfortable, take refuge in creating make-up or fantasy worlds, where people in general seem to get along.  Their stories tend to reflect family or school or work-related dynamics. Even then, they tend to shy away from the kinds of highly personal issues and conflicts  such as those so well dramatized in stories for young readers.  You almost expect to see framed drawings of unicorns and mermaids in their work areas.

Large clusters of writers gravitate toward detecting and unraveling mysteries.  Perhaps you fit in here, wanting to know the answers to puzzles that seem unsolvable.  Still larger groups of writers lean toward stories which investigate the personal chemistry between individuals, alternately drawing them together, then driving them apart, convinced they never wish to see the other again.

You may find yourself thinking always of some time and place in the past, intrigued by the social conventions and the way they may have been affected by actual historical events.

Perhaps you burn with the inner fires that raged within such political opposites as Jack London and Ayn Rand, wishing to demonstrate the struggles of living within a society where opportunities we take for granted today are not available to any but the most privileged.  Perhaps you write from enough of a sense of mischief to have a Jack London-type meet and fall helplessly in love with an Ayn Rand-type, who feels equally helpless in her love for him.

There is ample room for you within the enormous community of writers if you enjoy speculating on the possibilities of worlds, living conditions, and scientific discoveries as yet unimagined.

Let's not forget your possible interest in works of outrageous and humorous combustion, where good sense boils over and pretentiousness and pomposity are brought to their knees.

There is no end to the potential for story category in bookstores and libraries, including the so-called crossover stories, in which two or more genres (think historical romance, or humorous speculative) have joined forces in a marriage than not only worked but flourished.

Such matters are the things you ought to be thinking about as a step toward discovering who the writing you is. Another factor to consider:  your reason for telling stories.  The reason you give brings us back to the original question of who the writing you is.  Why do you want to do it?  What does it give you.

Not through with you yet.  We need to know why you read stories and what your reading does for you.

A picture is beginning to emerge.  Let’s secure it in place.  What genres do you read?  What’s the demographic of e-books you’ve downloaded on your reading devices?  What section of the bookstore do you instinctively head for?  What stories do your bookshelves tell about your reading tastes?

If there anomalies in your answers, such as you having shelves and e-readers filled with suspense and mystery, and you burn to write a gritty, noir downer like Georges Simenon or Elmore Leonard, why haven’t you done so?  What’s keeping you?

       You need to take some time answering the questions posed in this section.  Unless you identify the Writing You and see what it wants from you, all you’re going to produce are some results that are the writing equivalent of fast food.

       This is the you who nods to the idea, where ever and however the idea comes to you.  There is nothing tentative in this recognition.  You are not here for almost or partial or somewhat.  You are here to tell a story.

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