Monday, April 16, 2012

Question: Where Do you Get Your Stories? Answer: Have You Ever stripped Wallpaper?

If you aren't a "writer" it might seem strange to you, this practice we writers have of putting a lot of words on a metaphorical sheet of paper and moving them around to create a story. It might seem almost like magic. When reading a particular book, you might want to ask the author, where the hell did that particular phrasing come from? Why did you give your characters such odd names? And what were you thinking making it that length...that heat...that weird? #:0)

Of course writing, like everything else in life, is totally subjective. Give ten different writers a single premise and they will come up with ten totally different stories. Different heats, different lengths, different motivations, and completely different tones. So how do we do, what we do? Where do our stories come from?

Why...we yank them, full blown, out of our brain vaults.

No, not really...let me clarify...dragging them from the vault is like stripping wallpaper. The stories come out in strips and pieces, clinging to the surface of the vault with super glue fingers. Every once in a while we get really lucky and a big hunk comes out. For a day, or even an hour, the story falls from our fingertips onto the page. And then we'll hit an over-glued piece and the scrabbling with torn fingernails starts again.

I read a lot of reviews. Not just my own, but everybody's. Because I'm interested in the phenomenon of the 5, 5, 5...1. I mean, how does that happen? A universe of people will absolutely go to their graves proclaiming the wonderfulness of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and then there's that one schmoe who will give the book a 1 rating because he or she didn't understand it or had a myriad of complaints about how it was written. Don't get me wrong, I'm not disparaging the schmoe (not much anyway...hehehe) but it illustrates my point. When Suzanne Collins wrote the Hunger Games, she pulled the story, in its current form, from her brain. Though some of us would have wanted this a little bit different or that a little bit shorter/longer, what we want doesn't matter.

Not a whit.

The story is what the story is. Our jobs as readers is not to say, I wish...  It is to either like or dislike the story that was created.

The fact that the story is already written in our heads can cause writers no end of troubles. If everybody HATES the way we wrote it, that sucks. When reviewer after reviewer complains that the story is too short (common) or too long (not as common) or to sweet...too hot...too (insert favorite complaint here) our instinct is to feel bad and to wonder if we screwed the story up.

I'm here to tell you, writers, NO. Stop it! The story is what the story is. Some readers will like it and some won't. That doesn't change the reality. Given a certain amount of information, our brains will write a story and put it into the vault. (Think Gringotts Bank in the Harry Potter series). The writer might not get to that particular story for a while, or he/she might jump right on that puppy, but the story is written. Done. Fini. Terminado. Minus some scrupulous editing. #:0)

Now, I feel it is my duty as a responsible author to remind you that that doesn't give any of us carte blanche to write sloppy stories with horrible grammar, ignoring all the rules of great fiction. We must always pay attention to the technical aspects of writing. But recognize that we are only keepers of the stories planted in our brains. We have to remain true to them.

So love your stories. Be kind to yourself. And readers (especially authors wearing their reader hats), don't wish a story were different. Embrace it for the wonder it is. Because stripping wallpaper is one of the hardest jobs in the world. But when that last tiny strip finally succumbs to your torn and bleeding fingernail and comes off the wall...well...nothing could be better than the feeling of accomplishment in that!

Happy Reading!


Savannah Chase said...

That is the hardest thing to sometimes answer. For me my stories just come to me out of the blue. Sometimes I'm inspired by something I see, but my mind is always plotting and creating.

Sam Cheever said...

I'm the same way, Savannah. These days, more and more of my stories come from conscious plotting for books due to my publishers rather than pure inspiration. But the ones that come from inspiration are special to me, they're like my little jewels.

BleuAme said...

Excellent post :o)
Reviewers can be so hard for writers to grapple with and I think it is also good to try and chalk it up to "Oh well, that's someone's opinion".

I have stripped wallpaper.
Writing by far is much easier....most days.

BleuAme said...

Excellent post.

Reviewers can be so hard for writers to deal with. I think its helpful to take the attitude of, "Oh well, that is someone's opinion".

I have stripped wallpaper.
Writing is by far, easier.
Most days :o)

Sam Cheever said...

Hey BleuAme!

I couldn't agree more...most days! LOL Thanks so much for stopping by.