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Ideas are not Stories February 13, 2011

Posted by mattfarmer in books and reading, writing.
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I am thinking about creative writing a lot lately. I did say I wanted to write a short story every month, so I am thinking on things, about what I can write, scrambling for ideas, going to the note files, seeing what is there. And I see that I have a lot of ideas there. I got a great idea this week, and wrote it in my new note-book. But, while it is a great idea, it isn’t a story.

I am beginning to believe that the feedback for the stories I have submitted may be due to this. I have been told they were great ideas, but nothing happened. And that describes an idea. Great idea, but nothing happens.

Various sites which I Google tell me that the elements of a story are Setting, Plot, Conflict, Character, Point of View and Theme. And I look at some of my stories and, to be harsh but fair, I don’t think that they have all those elements. I think I do pretty well with Setting, character, POV and theme, maybe sometimes thin on the theme side of things. Sometimes I just like to write without thinking of an overall theme.

Plot and Conflict seem to be my two weakest areas. Give me a novel and I can give you all of those points in spades. I can set up conflict, many conflicts in the same story if I need to. But it takes me a novel to get everything in there.

I am grabbing some coloured post its, and sticking them to the side of my monitor which list all of these elements. That way I can have a checklist, if you will, to make sure I put all of these elements into each short story I write.

Now, this may seem that I’ve written short stories without these for years and I have just had an epiphany.  This is not entirely the case, honest. Its just the last few I have had seem to be great ideas for a bigger picture, and if that bigger picture was to be painted, would include all these elements. But, I am consciously trying to write shorts, and I NEED these elements to make a STORY.

So, I had a new idea during the week, about a girl who was incredibly psychic, and some scientists who are discussing her, and how much she knew, and the diary she kept. A good idea, with a couple of twists at the end, but looking at that list, there is no plot, not really. There is some conflict in that she is kept a prisoner by scientists to be studied. Setting is in the scientist’s facility, characters being the scientists, and the girl of course. POV would be from the scientists, and theme… well it’s not nice to keep a powerful young girl prisoner, that’s just mean.

But the big missing thing? Plot. What happens? Why does it happen? What resolution is there? I don’t know. It is an idea, jotted down in the notebook, waiting. Waiting for something to strike me and go AH HA!

On another note, in a recent blog post, which included a reference to zombies, I had a late start during the week. So, an hour before work I found a cafe, which sells AWESOME cakes I must say, and sat and wrote. I wrote for a good hour. And I don’t just say that. It was a GOOD hour. While I enjoy the word count from the train, half hour lunch and bits here and there. A good solid hour felt good. I wrote a scene, I finally got all the fiddly procrastination done with. Now I can throw my characters at the End Of Game boss and see who gets killed and who comes out alive. I have turned my savior into a selfish man with a severe disconnect from real people. I have finished the chapter. It was good.

Not this week, but next week I have 2 late days in a row, so again, I am going to find that cafe, and try a cake, a different cake each day, and write some more. I haven’t written much this week. Been busy each night. And reading a good book. Have decided to read on the train which leads to reading at lunch. Good book, what can I say?

Ah, the dilemma. Should I read this great book, or write? Gosh! I don’t know…

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