Saturday, 14 January 2012

Writer’s Anatomy: My Brain and Story Crafting

Have you ever had a moment when you felt like you were working on two tasks at once? Operating on two different levels to accomplish separate tasks? A moment where the two halves of your brain work parallel yet in perfect synchronicity?

Those moments are actually some of my most productive in terms of story crafting. When I’m not writing, my creative cells are busily at work rounding out characters, moulding worlds, testing dialogues and running scenarios. It’s as if a separate tape is running parallel to the train of thoughts plugged into the real world, a perpetual news reel passing my mind’s eye with occasional inspirational memos when reality bleeds into my creative thinking. I could be riding the train, find myself in the middle of a discussion on sustainable energy use or be jotting down my grocery list, yet at the same time I’m involved in questioning the motives of my main character or contemplating a hole in the fabric of my story. Writers tend to have a two-track mind when they are crafting. One part of our brain is charged with mastering life, while the other part is forever tuned into story town. Normally, my fantastic adventures become background noise, only gaining focus in moments when my fingers are flying over a keyboard or gripping a biro over a piece of paper.

When I’m crafting a new story, I go looking for moments of clarity, instances where the elements of my plot and character actions just fall into place. Sometimes story crafting is like solving a rubic cube. You try out different avenues and possibilities, scramble the variables and wait for them to align in a row of homogenously coloured tiles. Actually, colour-coding or tagging your plotlines can be very helpful in keeping track of the greater picture you want to draw. I usually tag a plot line by assigning it to the character that leads the action in the narrative thread. For example, I usually have the MC threat and the villain threat. That doesn’t necessarily mean that both threads will end up on the page, but it will give me insight into the motives of my characters and keep me on track in building the suspense. As a personal quirk of mine, I also like to employ a backstory thread where I include poetry, narratives and excerpts at the beginning of chapters to foreshadow the action or give backstory too lengthy to be introduced by dialogue.

Plot structure -
Finally, I layer and mould my plotlines against the basic plot structure: Introduction – inciting plot point – build up – climax – resolution. Since I usually tinker with my story line and characters throughout the day and hit breakthroughs at any point in time whether I am in the middle of browsing bookshelves or at work, I always have a notebook handy. First sketches of scenes, plotlines, settings, language quirks and characters are usually jotted down in a stream of consciousness. I then come back to these notes in structuring sessions. There I go over the ideas and impressions I collected and group them into more concrete strands. When I have a grasp on the corner stones and characters involved in a scene, I sit down and start to write, developing the narrative voice in the course of the first few paragraphs. I usually do not go back and edit scenes until I have finished the manuscript. Sometimes the writing flow takes you in a direction that your original crafting did not premeditate, but which actually fits the plot line better than the initial idea. For me, the first editing run is an opportunity to fill in the gaps in story and character action which opened up in the course of writing

Since my stories usually takes shape parallel to my personal life, experiences in the “real world” tend to spark insights into how characters tick, what makes them special, what situations they are confronted with and how they react. Yet it is unlikely that a character’s journey reflects my personal journey during the crafting stages. I hope this little insight into my mind gives you an idea of how many writer’s tick while expanding upon a new story idea.

1 comment :

  1. Very intersting insight!
    Authors really seem to get into their work ;)