I was able to advance my Poppycock story a bit this last week, though not as much as I would have liked to. I’m sort of still getting out of the gate with it. Ideas are settling, characters are developing and the plot is taking shape, mostly all in my head. It’s a good sign though, because it means the material is being forwarded to me from that great beyond where story ideas come from.
It’s a funny thing. You never really know where the stuff is coming from. I found this out after the first couple hundred thousand words I wrote. The story is all there. You don’t have to come up with it because its there. You need to excavate it, you need to dig it out, dust it off, but if you mess with it too much, if you try to change it too much from the original content that comes to you in a mental stream of unconsciousness you will inevitably ruin some portion of it.
Every time I have ever tried to think the story out before I wrote it one of two things has happened: 1) it just ends up reverting to the original story line or 2) I just come up with what I would have come up with anyway, which is really just another way of saying no. 1. I used to do these long outlines that would take hours and hours to prefect, coming up with all the right plot devices and ways to make my characters do things that would seem in character for them, all the way to conclusion. I did those outlines because I was so nervous that my story would just be wobbling all over the place, changing here and there–something like your character has just come face to face with mutant monsters and for the last 50 pages she hasn’t even gotten upset by it. You say, now wait a minute, if I had just been held captive in a farmhouse attic and fed dog food by werebears would I still have any part of my sanity? Wouldn’t I be freaking out a little? A lot?
But really all you do then is just go back and add the content that you missed. Its part of the excavation process. In this case I just had my character come up with the reasonable explanation that she must have somehow been drugged to hallucinate so bad (so she could mentally cope with it), and by the time she realized it was real, there was so much more danger in present time bearing down on her that she didn’t have the option of wondering about her sanity too much.
It’s interesting to watch a character grow up. It’s lovely actually. By the end of the book you know this person like they’re your best friend. In this one I’m writing now–Poppycock–the main protagonist is Sarah Montgomery and she has this problem where no matter what she’s attracted to the wrong guy, the Bad Boy type. It’s been that way her whole life so she has this complex about it and it’s a real problem for her and what not. Of course by the end of the story that issue will be resolved (along with some others) and she will have grown up some. It’s not what the story is about, it’s just a part of her personality. It’s a part that will change along with many others. If the characters don’t change throughout the story something is wrong. They have to change. They have to grow up.
Anyways, now I don’t bother with outlines at all. Because I know that I would have written according to the outline anyway. So,its pointless admin. A few times now, after a story was completed I found the old outline that I’d had stuffed away in a special file somewhere, forgotten. And I chuckle every time because the story is dead on with the outline. I hadn’t looked at the outline for the last half of the book and had forgotten I’d even done it, but I’d written the story true to it anyways.
It’s the thing I was saying–the ideas are already there. The story is already there. You just have to trust yourself to just let it come out. I’ll give you another example. I wrote a Sci-Fi adventure about a human military officer coming in contact with a hostile alien tribe called the Ceti. He becomes an honorary member of the tribe, learns this cool guerilla warfare technique flying through trees and what not and then goes on to fulfill a prophecy. Anyways, I wrote the whole book and kept referring to this alien people as The Ceti all throughout the book.
Then one day, I decided to just look up the word Ceti online, just for fun and I found out that its C.E.T.I. for Celestial Extra Terrestrial Intelligence i.e. an alien race. I couldn’t believe it. All this while, a year, I had been using this acronym and then come to find out it really means how I was using it. And the only explanation for it is that the content is all there. From this a devised a law: ONE MUST WRITE THE STORY THAT PRESENTS ITSELF TO BE TOLD.
To do anything else is to venture off into a dark and shapeless place where ideas collide with one another and bounce off the walls of your cranium. Every time I have gone astray from the above law, the story comes to a screeching halt. Once, I tried to blend two story ideas into one. I thought, maybe I can just use this character from this story and the world from this other one and just blend them together. The result: gobbledygook. I did an outlines once just like that and read it a couple of weeks ago. It was an atrocity. Of course, often a story idea does snap together with what you thought was a different story and suddenly you realize its all the same story. But that is different. That’s an outcropping of the excavation concept. That’s a natural union and the result is always great. But it’s when you have to force it together with a crow bar and weld it so it will hold is when you’ve gone off the above law.
Anyways, so my lead character, Sarah, currently is being confronted by Poppycock and he’s about to do something really bad, only she has no idea what and assumes the worst. Poppycock has media presence now and basically everyone is scared to death of him. He’s all over the news, internet, papers. So, I’ve actually left her hanging now for over a day. Poppycock is right there in her living room and she’s in tears hoping that someone comes in to save her. Only thing is (and she doesn’t know this yet) no one is coming because the only person who could has already been captured. So, she’s going to have to cut a deal with Poppycock and his brother (named Puk) and accept their terms if she wants to live. It’s a mess.
One cool thing is I discovered how fairy’s can shape shift and what not. See shape shifting defies natural physics. You just can’t do it. Take the mass density of a man. Okay, he’s 6 foot and 200 pounds and we’ll pretend he’s a shape shifter too and he becomes a werewolf, lets say. In this process his muscles get all ripped and he grows three feet and claws and long teeth. And he would actually weigh another 75 pounds or something. Actually a great example of this is The Incredible Hulk. Anyways, so when he’s not morphing out to his passionate mutant side, he shrinks back down into man form. Now, here’s the big question: what does he weight when he steps on a scale? 200 pounds. Where did all that mass density go to and come from when he’s going in and out of his monster physique? Law of conservation of energy is all against it. Its one of those things writers and moviemakers just gloss over because lets face it, it’s fantasy. It fits under the heading of Suspension of Disbelief and we’ve all accepted that, if we want to enjoy a good mutant super hero.
Or it’s explained away with a word: magic. Ah, but magic is such an easy out. You can always just chalk it up to magic and away we go. But I say that’s not good enough. See, my story, Poppycock, has an urban setting. So, it’s intrinsically linked to the real world. So, you gotta have a real world explanation. Of course, Poppy and Puk have magic, but it’s a magic system. And here’s my explanation for their fairy morphing skills: they exist in a slightly different timespace continuum than us mortals. Just enough different so that they stand slightly outside our laws of physics. They can interact in our space, they can see us, communicate with us, but they are just a little bit not there. They are just a little bit ethereal, a little fey as it were. So, that is why they are trying so hard to be real in our world. Because they are so close already, if they can just get enough agreement that they are real, that they do exist, then they can solidify just a little bit more. Problem is they will never truly be as real as they want to, never quite because they exist in a different timespace.
Anyways, I suppose that’s a little too far into geekdom. But what I love about this stuff is that it’s really a metaphor for our own human condition. My fairies just want to be taken seriously, don’t you too?