The other day, I was struck with the perfect way to tell a story I had been working through in my head. It would be a series of letters outlining the tale of two sisters, I knew where it would start and where it would end and, with that, I had a rough sketch of how this plot would play out on paper. But, having a structure and an outline is not always how it works out for me!
I’m constantly fascinated by how others write. I have spoken with my friend Hannah (check out her blog here) about seven-point stories and other methods of giving life and structure to one’s works in progress. In fact, I wrote a previous blog post about ways to do so. At the time, I thought perhaps that different writers had different story plotting methods and I was trying a few on for size to identify the one that would work perfectly for me. Today, I have a new hypothesis: Stories will come out how they want to be told.
Take, for example, the Dear Sister story that I opened with. It is a story I mapped out and have a Word document and a few thousand words for in yet another format. But again, today, I feel that the letters method will be a perfect format for this particular story. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but it makes sense that I dislike the copy that I already have down. Reading it right now it reads as exactly how I think I felt when I wrote it — forced.
Adam: Discovery writing
This story came to fruition as the result of a very vivid dream I had. I don’t normally remember my dreams so that in and of itself was odd, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I woke up, so I jotted down the scene. From there, each time I’m putting pen to paper or fingers to keys, I’m just asking myself what Adam and Sam are up to today. I’m discovering the story as I unveil it to the reader.
What’s more, my dream could not possibly be the beginning of this story. It’s perhaps one-third of the way into a book at least, I think at the moment, so there is structure that needs to be put in place before and it needs to lead somewhere after and have an endpoint. All of these things I’ll build as I go.
The Phone Call: Outline
I use an outline for this one. I know how the story will build within the format I have put it, that is, as the title states, one phone call. I know what the climax will be, how it will resolve and how it will end. I have it on a legal pad next to my laptop and check in as I fill in the detail and take pockets of time to fill in the background at appropriate moments. The point is, I already know this story. If a metaphor for discovery writing is starting with a blank page and sketching out the story then this method is a color book where I am filling in between the lines with rich pigment and hues.
I love both of these sets of writing. I think that working between the two different methods keeps me on track and productive. On days when I’m feeling less than super creativity needed to look within the recesses of my brain to what Sam and Adam may be up to, I can go to my outline and visit a cozy, familiar part of my brain working on The Phone Call.
In short, variety is good. I now have some middles in addition to all of the beginnings that I had discussed in my previous post. And, of course, all of these theories on writing could change between now and the next time I revisit the topic.