Hello again, all!
I think I’m finally starting to hit my stride with writing again, although the focus has been somewhat erratic. I have not progressed much further with That Fic, but I have gotten down quite a lot for some of the others that I’ve mentioned in the past few posts – namely that Achievement Hunter fic, and the great beast of a modern Tolkien AU.
Without much to actually talk about in regards to my current projects, I thought I’d switch gears this week to actually talk about storytelling, or at least, my personal thoughts and experiences with it. Not the writing process, because there are a thousand and one stories out there about writer’s block and sitting in front of a blank page for hours without writing a single word, but the actual craft of creating a story.
Full disclaimer here: I’m not a professional author, I’ve never had my works properly published, and I’ve only just finished a single semester of creative writing class. But I like books, and I like stories, and I’ve done a fair bit of writing myself, and I think that gives me enough leeway to comment on what it’s like and what it means to write a story.
I feel confident in saying that all stories start with an idea. And then what comes after, how the writer responds to this idea, differentiates, in my view, story crafting from story writing. A lot of writers, including myself, have an idea. We take it, we roll with it, and if we’re particularly persistent, we overcome hours of writer’s block to produce some kind of draft, which then may or may not undergo edit after edit after edit until it is fit for publication. We collapse into our chairs with a sense of accomplishment – voila, we have shared our idea with the world!
And that’s perfectly valid writing, we’ve put time and effort into it, it’s our creative brainchild, and the fact that it exists at all is a testament to our accomplishments. This is not a post disparaging these efforts, I know myself how much it takes just to get out a few hundred words. Story writing is a difficult task, and writers deserve commendation for the effort they’ve put into it.
To talk about what I view as story crafting, it’s a tricky thing to separate from story writing, as they’re certainly not mutually exclusive. What I describe as story crafting is a care and attention paid to the structure of the story as a whole. Not just ‘what is the plot’ and ‘what’s going to happen’ and ‘what are the character arcs and major themes,’ but the careful consideration paid to creating a unified whole, looking at an original idea and going ‘there is more to this and I want to do it justice.’
In my reading experience, I’ve read a lot of stories that have been written. Sure, there have been varying levels of proficiency, but that’s not important, every writer is at a different stage in their writing. What unites most of these stories is that the writer had an idea, took it, and ran with it, finding a story to tell from it. And it’s fantastic, a lot of stories and writers I love have taken this approach, there are great works that have come from it.
I have, more rarely, also read stories that have been crafted. Where the writer had an idea, looked at it, and thought ‘There is a story in here, and I’m going to make it grow.’ To use an analogy, they took a seed, planted it, cultivated it, pruned it when needed, helped it to flourish. It’s not just an idea with a story in it. It’s an idea that is part of a story, part of something greater, and with some careful tending, it can reach it’s full potential.
This is not to say that story writing does not include story crafting, for I’ve known a lot of authors and a lot of stories that started out as story writing and moved into story crafting. The two are inextricably linked, and for me, how I usually tell the difference is how rich the story feels when I read it. In the world that the author has created, how much do I get the sense of something bigger, beyond the perspectives of the characters? How does everything fit together? How developed are the characters, the arcs, the story?
The danger of writing solely from an idea is that by just relying on your initial spark from the idea, you soon find yourself running dry. I’ve done this so many times (as my Writing folder on my computer can attest) where I’ve had an idea and scribbled down a few paragraphs, a few pages of it, thinking this is the next big thing, my magnum opus, the work to end all works. And then inspiration runs dry, and I find that I really don’t have much to write about at all.
To go back to the plant analogy, it’s the difference between planting a seed in the wild and a seed in an orchard. A seed planted in the wild can certainly grow into a magnificent plant. It can also die quickly, shrivelled up or trampled or just lost amongst everything else. A seed planted in an orchard, while there is no absolute guarantee of survival and fruition, is tended and cultivated and can grow into something beautiful for many to share in.
(Again, disclaimer here, I know practically nothing of botany or agriculture, so these metaphors may be off)
Point at the end of all that is, I have a great admiration for writers who can take the time to sit down and let their story flourish, who have the guts to tackle the behemoth and cut what is unnecessary and change what needs to be changed, who are willing to put in the effort to develop their story’s full potential. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do, and it’s definitely not for everyone, it doesn’t mesh with every writer’s needs or abilities, but the result can be absolutely glorious.
What do you think? This isn’t a very well-thought out essay, just my rambling thoughts, but I’d like to know your opinions. Agree or disagree, I’d love to hear your reasoning! Leave a comment below or send a message!
Until the next time!