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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Things I've Learned Along the Way: Moments of Magic

As a rule, I don't have any of the stereotypical characteristics associated with being a writer. My characters don't appear fully formed in my head, talking to me constantly. I am not overflowing with story ideas, and I don't operate under the assumption that my characters tell the story and my fingers simply channel it.

Not that there's anything wrong with that attitude. In fact, not feeling that way makes me self-conscious as a bit of a misfit in the writers' world. I craft my stories extremely carefully, being sure to give characters flaws that will most hinder them, and I build a conflict around various story frames rather than letting characters "hash it out."

From what I've seen, when writers with voices in their heads get to the end of a first draft, they find holes that need filled, subplots that need expanded or axed, and characters that need combined or added in order to make this channeled story make sense. When I get to the end of a first draft, it doesn't matter how much planning I've done: I have exactly the same issues.

This is the point where what I call "normal writers" and I switch vantage points. I watch my friends who write fluid first drafts struggle with pouring craft into them. And me? I find the magic. Because here's the thing: storytelling is always magic. While first drafts are hard for me and require me to use crafts, almost invariably I fill holes in "aha! moments" that present themselves out of nowhere.

I sat in church one Sunday, half paying attention, but unsure how my nearly complete story could end. I skimmed through the Bible in front of me, read a verse, and felt a light bulb switch on in my head. The room around me seemed to dim and fade, I stopped hearing the pastor, and I opened the notes app on my phone and typed as fast as I could manage. The verse was hardly related to the solution, but it came. Another plot hole filled while I was coloring a picture. (On a barely related note, I highly recommend coloring. It's cheaper than therapy and good for plot-hole-filling.)

Filling in plot holes while filling in the marigold in my coloring book.
So what have I learned? That my logical brain is a dragon that in itself needs defeated sometimes in order to make a story truly come to life. I've had solutions come to me that I couldn't explain, or solutions that adhered the entire manuscript in a way that I'd never imagined when I wrote the thing. Whether the magic comes in the beginning or during revision, I've definitely learned that there is no story without it.

1 comment:

Martha Ramirez said...

I love when inspiration strikes when you least expect it. So true that answers to problems come out of nowhere. It's so amazing how