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Mar 24, 2009

Illumination


I have an idea.

I have ten thousand ideas for stories, in fact, which is why I love this lightbulb picture. There are many bulbs, but last night one in particular flared to life.

I needed to start a new novel, one from scratch (there's a reason, but I'll save that story for another time -- it's secret for now), so I trawled through my notebooks to revisit those dottings every writer has. You know the ones I mean, those odd wisps of inspiration which wake you up after a vivid dream of flying, or make you pull over the car on the freeway near the emergency call box, or have you ignoring everything your boss just said to you in the meeting because you had to write it down here, now on the notes to the power point presentation. I have a few of these every day. I've shared  a few. There are many, many more.

These dottings are like bottlecaps. One or two is never enough to send in for the prize. You have to keep collecting them. Some will never go anywhere except that cobweb space between the back of your couch and the wall, along with your Canadian penny and the left leg of a McDonald's Happy Meal toy.

Character. Setting. Plot. For an idea collection to add up to a real outline for a story, I need two of out three; I can then fill in the third. A truly, truly dazzling inspiration will be born, whole and complete, with all three.

My idea last night was truly, truly dazzling.

I wish I could share it with you. (I even designed a cover for it already.) But it's still too newborn. And I'm not sure I deserve it yet. As I said last night, I've had the inklings of this idea before -- I had a Setting -- but I felt inadequate to the task of writing it.

What changed last night? Very simply, I realized I knew the four characters who must be in the story. Once I knew the characters -- since I already had the setting -- I only needed a plot, which in turn, was obvious simply by drawing lines between the characters to connect them.

Do you believe there are Platonic Ideals of stories? Somewhere, somehow, there is the perfect version of your story; if you were only a good enough writer, you would be able to give the Platonic Form a Tangible Form. Though your version of the story would never be as beautiful as the Real story, it would at least reflect it, like water holds the moon.

14 comments:

Kim Kasch said...

Yeah, some stories I love and others I just want to be friends with.

:D

Lisa and Laura said...

There must have been a full moon yesterday because I had the best story idea ever. I've already got the whole thing plotted out and the characters are jumping off the page. I love it when inspiration strikes! I was in the best mood yesterday.

Anyways, I don't think that there's a "perfect" version of your story. Honestly, I think all of my work would be completely different if I wrote it on a different day or even an hour later. I don't really understand how I write, so it feels very mystical when I sit down with my outline and start typing. One of my favorite things about writing is that you just never know what you're going to find. Laura and I used really detailed outlines, but the story always ends up taking twists and turns that we never expected.

Enjoy your shiny new idea! Can't wait to hear more about it.

Tara Maya said...

That's true, even day to day, you could not write the same story twice. This is also why it's tragic if you write out a perfect scene and then lose you only copy. That's happened to me -- it never feels the same re-writing it.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Yes, I know about the story dottings - I have piles of notebooks that I dig through when I need an idea, but I agree the idea that comes to you fully formed is the best kind.

I also feel that there is a perfect version of your story, if only the writer can find it. It is kind of like that Michelangelo quote: "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

lotusgirl said...

I feel that the story wouldn't exist without us. Someone to tell it. We just have to do our best to do justice to the characters and their tale. If we didn't bumble through the best we can, their tale would never be told. There is an ideal we can achieve that could be perfect and I think that is what we seek out, but better an imperfectly told story than no story at all. (within reason though, I guess)

Windsong said...

Congratulations on finding your new story! Thank you also for sharing how you come up with your ideas. I love learning about how other people write. Very interesting. :)

The perfect version is in my head, the movie I see playing while I frantically try to scribble it down. Strange thing is that the movie is made of words. Sometimes those words form pictures, sometimes not. But the sound is there. The reflection is my best approximation on the computer screen. After what seems like a thousand rewritings. ;)

The Screaming Guppy said...

I love those moments. The "oh snap!" moments where everything clicks, even if it's something as simple as a scene, or as complex as an entire plot.

It's refreshing to start something new. :)

Kasie West said...

Ah, you said that so beautifully. Can we ever tell our stories the way they are meant to be told? The way they play out in our minds? Sigh. It is every writer's dream.

Lady Glamis said...

I think, in a way, yes, there are Platonic ideas for stories. I made a comment to my husband today about how different my stories would be without his helping me. And it's true. Sometimes everything just falls into place. I like to think of it as some sort of Divine intervention, but maybe it's just writerly fate. Who knows. Great post!

And good luck with that new novel. ;)

sraasch said...

Yay, ideas! Can't wait to hear what it's about :)

jessie said...

If your novel reads as well as your post, I think you will capture the REAL story. But I know what you mean about the perfect version of your story. I see it in my head. It has a lot of different camera angles and great lighting and even soundtrack. But will I REALLY be able to capture that with my writing? I hope. Anyway, I feel like you crawled into my brain to write this post. I feel much the same.

ban said...

kim: too funny :D
jessie: me too !

i have tiny notebooks EVERYWHERE - under my mattress, in my car, purse, laptop bag, diaper bag etc. etc. so i know only too well what you're talking about. the good thing about having so many stories ... one always jumps to the forefront when i stumble with my current wip. looks like you'll be going with story c now ;) best of luck !
ps: for all those dottings - check out hayley's site. she has a link to a free download that helps you organize them all !

Hannah said...

Even if you can never touch the perfect words for what happened in your head, you can write the right story, if you're willing to try.

I'm more than willing to believe you're worthy of your story. And, one day, it will be ready for the light.

PurpleClover said...

beautiful! I love seeing the birth of a new idea and watching the wheels turn as it is set into motion! Can't wait to hear the updates!