Saturday, November 15, 2008

Telling Stories vs. Writing Books

As I've blogged about before, I'm immersed in developing something I have not attempted in many years: a work of fiction. I'm aspiring for it to be "literature," but that sounds presumptuous to say so I've told just a few friends and colleagues that I am writing a novel. Actually, since I mention it on my Web site, I guess I've told everyone who drops by.

What has been fun about the journey so far is the pre-writing process. It all began with some quality time in a coffee shop several months ago, when the seed of an idea was planted and slowly began to germinate. It was an impression, an ache, a desire to explore a specific theme. I did not go back and cultivate the soil for quite some time, but when I did things began to bloom. Themes from ancient myths I have explored and key books, films and works of art I have enjoyed came to mind as characters took shape in my head.

As I continue to flesh out the mini-biographies of these characters--where they live, what they do for hobbies, what events have shaped them, what they long for--I find that I'm weaving in (not to quote Maria from The Sound of Music) more than a few of my favorite things. Ideas that have inspired me intrigue one or more of my characters. Struggles I have faced come alive, in some small aspect at least, in the thoughts and actions of these persons who have become real to me despite their status as Microsoft Word text.

As I have detailed the characters, I also have chronicled a likely flow of action, with numerous bullet points describing key events that will take place across a three-part structure.

My hope is that the more I know these characters and the potential flow of action, the more I will find myself simply telling a story rather than "writing a book." The former feels much more effortless and natural, and likely more enjoyable. Writing a book resonates with 'work," telling stories is about streams flowing passionately from the heart that might satisfy another's inner thirst.

I think this distinction is a mental key for me as I slowly gear myself up to crank out those opening chapters. I'm simply talking about people I know rather than trying to produce a product that I hope can be marketed to the masses. By keeping it simple I hope to reach some depths, digging with delight into the soil where the seed first came to life.


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