Monday, May 18, 2015

MONDAY'S MUSINGS— BUILDING A STORY




One thing I’ve learned over the years is everyone tells a story differently. Writers build their stories differently, too.


My stories come to me in a flash of an idea. A quick sketch. Something that intrigues me whether it’s and idea from something I’ve read, heard on the news, a snippet of conversation, and a scenario develops in mind. And I should say, I always have some daydream situation going on in my mind. Once it reaches a certain point I have to get it out of my mind and on paper.

I tend to be spare when I’m starting a story or a scene. It’s a quick sketch of what I’m seeing in my head. I don’t have the time to layer every sensory bit I see and feel.

This used to be a big wall for me and certainly frustrating. What I saw, heard, and felt wasn’t always there—the bare bones were. The fluid movements, the echoes of emotion were there. I’d get to feeling like, oh my god this is such crap. Why? Because I wasn’t looking at it properly and forgot that as I wrote the scene it was my mind providing all the layers, but I wrote only the actions. For the reader to see it I had to add the layers I saw and felt.

I’ve learned a few tricks along the way. For me, it very similar to building a picture. It starts with an base outline and each pass I add more details until it matches what’s in my head. I need to get it on paper but I can’t let it go without going back and shading in and smudging the bare sketch.  

 With my story, I have to go back and add reaction/emotions/description and adding all the fun and tantalizing details. Even when the scenes are good initially I’m still going have to go back and shade in more sensory details.

I’ve also learned I’m going to have to do that over and over as I write each chapter.

Each of my scenes has to have a goal and a reason exist. I have to ask questions of myself. Is there enough conflict internally or externally? Especially in the opening. Is there enough to put my reader in the scene and make them want to read more? Am I getting them involved or are they on the sidelines? Am I using settings and dialog that showcase my characters strengths and weaknesses or foreshadow actions to come?

  • What about you? How do you build a story? What tricks have you learned?

20 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm a bare bones writer as well and always have to go back and add description and layers.

Jo said...

No story building Sia, but if I get a blogging idea, I need to write it down otherwise I forget it. Sometimes I have to flesh the idea out, other times one word is sufficient.

Kat Sheridan said...

I'm the opposite. I tend to go WAY overboard on sensory and emotional details on the first pss, then have to go back and cut out all but the most essential ones.

A Beer For The Shower said...

This is how we both write too. And for us, especially in our humor novels, we often write the story itself and then come back in and add the jokes later.

dolorah said...

I think my first draft or two is nothing more than overwritten plotting and character/setting building. The words come easier when I recognize that and just move on when the story stumps me. Editing and revising may take several passes, but I enjoy the details more when I'm working on only one scene or plot point at a time.

Loved the eye analogies. Beautiful artwork.

shelly said...

I write whatever I see in my head as well. But focus on how I end each chapter. Then later, I'll go in and fix it.

Lexa Cain said...

I do exactly what you do. I worry about getting the groundwork in first - the plot and characterizations. I'm pretty spare with the prose (and it's dreadful! lol). But then later I revise a few times, fill in descriptions, and change awful old cliches to something better. Great post! Have a lovely week! :)

~Sia McKye~ said...

ALEX, I do have some emotional or descriptions but yah, I have to go back and add it.

JO--writing is writing, whether it's a story, article, or a blog post. you have to get the idea down first. :-)

KAT--you're great with emotional/sensory details. I've always loved that about your stories.

~Sia McKye~ said...

BRANDON AND BRYAN--once you have the bones down it's not hard to add other bits. I also find it a way to tweak earlier scenes to match a deviation in the forward part of the story. You can add layers that can foreshadow, too.

DEB--that makes sense. And thank you.

SHELLY--oh yah, the hooks are important to pull the reader forward. Sometimes those hooks are easier to develop after you've gotten a few chapters beyond. Light bulb moment. :-D

LEXA--that groundwork is vital. Good idea about not worrying about the cliches until you're revising. Keeps you moving forward instead dwelling on words as you write. Each scene is a picture can perfect but first you have to have the sketch.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I'm like you. I need to get the basics in my first draft and then go back and edit, often focusing on one area in a specific editing round.

Liza said...

I tend to over do the description. I'm teaching myself to back off from that.

Carol Kilgore said...

I build a story very much in the same way you do. I learn so much more about the characters as I write that I have to figure out how to get it all in on future passes.

Jemi Fraser said...

My first novel attempt was almost 200k - filled with SO much drivel. Now, I've gone the other way as well and need to go back in and add layers. Tough stuff (cutting is so much easier!) but I'm learning as well. Good luck! :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I write the first draft and then I go back and make sure every scene has a reason to exist or if they're just fillers. Delete, delete is a big part of my editing.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sia - I mix and match .. and have to coax my posts into some relevant form ... but I do like description, but also giving readers a sense of the time (history etc) .. to bring the idea to life a bit more.

Cheers Hilary

~Sia McKye~ said...

NATALIE--I like the idea of focusing on a specific when editing.

LIZA--finding that happy medium isn't always easy.

CAROL--that's so true. It's like they're introducing themselves when you first start and let you know a bit at a time who they are

SUSAN--figuring out the fillers is not always easy especially if you happen to like some of those chapters. :-)

JEMI--I laugh because my first one was about 130K. I had to edit it down to about 90K. I still have to cut as I write, especially when I have to add layers--more and better words.

HILARY--I like description, too. When I'm reading I want to feel like I'm visiting and seeing not just running around with the characters. I hear you on the coaxing posts into some relevant form. :-)

M Pax said...

I have to go back and fill things in too - emotions, more character, etc... I think we have to write in layers. At this point I don't know how else to do it.

Pat Hatt said...

I just let it flow and it seems to build on its own. Sometimes I can be skimpy on description though, but better than too much I guess haha

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I am not very good at describing setting in my first draft. Sometimes I even plop in something like [put description here] and keep writing. I tend to include character gestures and emotions as I go -- although not always the right ones! I am so focused on moving the plot forward, I sometimes forget to really explore my character motives. I just got back a CP response on a new chapter, in fact, that questioned why my protag would walk so willingly into a dangerous situation with a total stranger. The answer of course is, because he HAS to for the plot to continue, ha, ha. But her comment reminds me that when I do the second draft, a sentence or two of anxiety, nervousness, and then a logical-seeming rationale in his own head will be just the right touch.

It really is about making multiple passes to get it all done right!

Yolanda Renee said...

I write the idea down, try to flesh it out, but walk away and let my brain work on it. Sometimes I never look at it again, but sometimes it turns into a book.
Sometimes I'll write, especially flash fiction with a prompt - love the challenge, and the brevity!