I’ve been neglectful (yet again) of this blog, and hope that one day, I’ll be able to get to squeeze in more time and opportunity to create more posts. I enjoy it, but with various other things happening, it gets forgotten about a bit too much for my liking. But that is for another blog post…
Back in June 2015, I ended up writing a blog post about preparation and planning. This is a sort of revisiting, because in the Cabin for the April 2016 Camp NaNoWriMo (one of the things keeping me busy, but in a good way,) was the comment “I tend to have issues planning ENOUGH if that makes sense. I never quite make my final word count because I run out of story.” This is an interesting problem, from my view. I’m not sure how to fully answer it, either. But I’m willing to give it my personal thoughts, because it might just produce something that can help someone.
The first thing I think of with this is the issue of word counts. After years of bumbling along, and making literary messes, I’ve come to the conclusion that how long a story is supposed to be determines quite a few things. I now regard short stories as episodes in a television programme, and novels to be like films. I think I have touched on this before, but I’ll go through it again, because it connects in with what I’m going to say a bit later on.
To summarise, I regard every hundred words in a short story to equate to a minute of screen time, and every thousand words in a novel to equate to a minute of cinema time. By looking at it in that way, I then have a basis to gauge the length of the story, and thus work out how long I want it to be. This visualising is important, because then I can sit down and think about how much needs to go in, to make it get to that limit. From there, I can decide on the location, and see what research I need to do to get it right, and what interesting details I can learn about the place that can help build the atmosphere of the story.
Take Odessa, Texas, as an example. This is a city of 1000,000 or so people, in the middle of the desert. It has a nearby city it is a huge rival to in terms of American Football, their teams doing quite well for themselves in the leagues. (The Permian Panthers was the idea for the television series Friday Night Lights.) The city also has a meteor crater (which was part of the group that crashed with the Arizona crater meteor,) a replica Globe Theatre, and a replica Stonehenge. It also has connections to the Bush family, if memory serves. Suddenly, from what I have just outlined, you can start to get ideas, because there are some really nice features that could really set things in the story in terms of tone.
I also consider the characters as well. How many will be needed to get to that limit? How do they all interact with each other, and how does that spark chain of events? If I need to, I’ll go and add a character or two whilst writing the story, to add more depth and potential to it. In a sense, the characters are like threads waiting to be woven into a tapestry: each strand adds to the colour and variety of the whole. Not only that, but pull away a thread, and the whole tapestry could unravel. Life is about the events that spark off from the encounters with people, places, knowledge and realisations, when you think about it. And this follows true for story weaving, too.
Of course, it can sometimes turn out that you have managed to get the end, but failed to get to your target. For me, that is no issue at all. It them means I’ll go back through, and try to see what I can do to add to it. Have I described all the characters fully? Have I described all of the locations? Is there any minor or trivial characters than should be expanded on, to help benefit the story? Finishing under the word target isn’t a crisis; you have finished the story, and thus can build on the structure some more.
This should serve as a helpful start to people. I’ll probably end up coming back to this topic, and adding some more in another post, when I have come up with more to say.
Oh, and Happy Easter to all of my readers. May you all have a great and wonderful weekend.