Sunday, February 15, 2015

Pawing the Ground in Search of Plots

For the longest time, you believed the way to write a story of any length, but particularly of novel length, was to begin with a detailed outline.  You believed this to be so because one of the early books designed to show how to write stories said, in unequivocal terms, that an outline was a part of the process.

Your mother, an excellent cook and superb baker, impressed on you through example the value of process, in her case the process of recipe.  You were left to draw the naive conclusion you did.

This belief on your part demonstrated a number of things about you in addition to the one at the top of the pyramid, your naivete. Here was abundant proof that you were an outlaw, because you persisted in writing stories that had not been outlined.  

The thing that had a simultaneous excitement and fear for you was the fact that the results were unlike anything you were reading.  This caused you to waver between feeling original and, in effect, like one of your mother's cakes with some primary ingredient gone missing.  

Interesting to note how that polarity exists today with the things you write.  Sometimes each feeling washes over you like a wave.  How enjoyable it was when the excitement came, drawing for a time the awareness that you didn't outline.

Your belief then--as well as now--convinces you that knowing the outcome of a story before you even began writing it was the equivalent of a one-way ticket to boredom.  Each time you wrote a story without first constructing an outline, you told yourself in a stage whisper, "We'll let this be our little secret."

Your approach couldn't have been much of a secret.  Anyone reading one of your early stories would know you were improvising, constructing as you went along.  However satisfied you were with the stories you were producing, it was no secret that you couldn't write a novel, not only because you hadn't yet done so, but because you couldn't bring yourself to outline one.

One more burden you carried about was the knowledge held deep within that you were lacking any ability to plot.  The more you sought advice in books, journals, and instructors, the more you encountered direct references to the need for a story to have a plot.  To make matters worse, a great many stories you read had tangible plots you could mark on their pages with colored pencils.

The you of now has had, when he thinks of it, covered a great deal of ground in search of discovering how to get by without outlines for stories, and what ingredients will, if added early enough, will produce not merely a plot but a freaking story arc.

Much of this ground relates to the trust of outcomes even before they have arrived.  Some of this covered ground means to not settle for quick fix recipes, and to learn to live the times when outcomes show no sign whatever of arriving.

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