No two writers create story the same way.
Now, there’s a “no-brainer.” A second generalization is “There are no new stories.” You think the plot you are working on is innovative and fresh? I challenge you. Why? Because as a species we humans recycle the experience of life, the stages of living, the perennial cycle of thinking humans instigating war, seeking love, taking risks, defying control, searching for answers, as well as questioning the status quo. Yes, scientists examine and see new explanations and the artists of any society interpret visions into objects others can consider. But, in our very humanity, we are repetitive in learning how life works.
Why, then, should writers even bother trying to tell another variation on the same stories?
Because each and every soul yearns to describe awareness and that human’s discovery of current reality then reflect that awareness in storytelling. Even when writing historical fiction or futuristic or speculative fiction, each writer is interpreting her or her own awareness of the human condition in an attempt to connect with the mind and soul of another human being. They are saying “See what I have learned.” Soul-deep, driven writers have no choice but to perform that task. It is that simple . . . and that complicated.
Random vs. Deliberate
Over my years of writing and teaching writing, I have encountered many seat-of-the-pants writers who simply “let the words flow.” I have been in “the zone” of creating on the spot and understand how this happens. Many experienced writers evolve thinking habits that allow this form of creativity.
The key words are “experienced” and “habits.”
New writers experiencing the first spark of creative fire may think they are writing something totally new, an innovative twist. They consider their insights and word crafting as new ways of thinking for them, so the spewing of the story and character must be random freshness. Right?
Some Creatives cringe at the very idea of careful planning before execution of their art form. They hold onto the belief that such mental discipline inhibits rather than frees the creative flow. They believe true creativity must be random rather than deliberate. Fine art that pushes the envelope of creativity must be allowed to ignore “The Rules” of the artistic discipline. I believe one has to know the “The Rules” before one can bend or break them.
Am I implying that “experienced” and “habits” NEED to grow out of awareness of “The Rules” and the human soul seeks a comfortable recycling of what has been experienced before? Yes and no.
My philosophy is that the creative soul needs to understand the foundations and principles of the art form in order to grow from uncontrolled, random spewing to deliberate manipulation of “The Rules.” I am proposing every single artist must practice, practice, practice until the mind automatically and habitually thinks in the terms of the “The Rules.” That is the point where the deliberate writing can become random, where the disciplined writing can shift into automatic and reach for new interpretation.
No New Stories
I have a course with Savvy Authors starting September 3 called THE NEVER-ENDING PLOT/SUBPLOT RESOURCE wherein I explain how a Frenchman named Polti analyzed and identified 36 basic dramatic situations, plots or storylines. He explained how these are fundamental and every story told can be found somewhere on his list. I worked very hard to prove him wrong only to discover how right he was. In MY process, I also discovered what a rich tool he succinctly outlined that allows me to exaggerate yet still connect with a reader. Learning Polti’s form of one of the “The Rules” of storytelling, I found how I can twist, turn, intensify and revise to create my own versions. I accepted that I am a member of the world’s oldest profession—Storytelling—using mental tools other human beings can understand and experience with me.
It matters not that I am not creating world-shattering new stories. What matters is that I am a deliberate craftsman sharing MY discoveries of life in my now. My spewing flows more freely with my command of this “Never-ending Plot/Subplot Resource.” I challenge you to come share how this can deliberately work to improve the flow of your writing process.
Sally Walker’s published credits include literary, romance and western novels, a nonfiction essay collection, several creative writing textbooks, stage plays, poetry, and many magazine articles on the craft of writing, including staff contributions to two international film magazines for 10 years. With 30 screenplays written, several under negotiation at three different studios and her novel-to-screenplay adaptation on her plate, Sally has a well-respected manager representing her in Hollywood. In addition to long time active memberships in such national writing organizations as RWA, WWA and SCBWI, she was president of a state-wide writers organization 2007-2011. She keeps to a strenuous writing schedule and still has time to work as Editorial Director for The Fiction Works, supervising acquisitions and sub-contracted editors, as well as Script Supervisor for material sent to TFW’s affiliated Misty Mountain Productions. Sally has taught writing seminars, both on-site and on-line, for over 29 years and is the facilitator for the weekly meetings of the Nebraska Writers Workshop in Ralston, NE. For more information on her works and classes go to her website at http://www.sallyjwalker.com.