Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Some Novel Ideas

Believe it or not, I never wanted to write a novel. I mean, I always wanted to tell stories, but I never thought in terms of "novel" vs. "short story" or "trilogy," etc. The long and short of it was that I wanted to tell stories, and be able to present them well - whatever that meant. What I'm saying is that I didn't have a clear idea of writing.

But the novel is one of the biggest projects in the writing world, and probably the most popular format. Novels give people time to become familiar with characters and their plights, and that familiarity is what matters. Once the reader cares about the characters and what happens to them, they want that experience to last for as long as it remains enjoyable, or at least until the story is told.

Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is a perfect example: any shorter and it would have been little more than a well-told morality play; any longer and we would have had too much time to pick the story apart. While not exactly a novella, Of Mice and Men is no short story; technically, it is a "novella." But no matter its classification, it is the perfect length. And the story is closed-ended; there is nowhere else to go following the climax; Steinbeck designed it so that all the questions were answered and all the story told at the end of the last sentence.

Yes, he designed it that way.

And I am going to show you how to design stories, too. We're going to talk about them in several steps which lead to several stages, all of which comprise the mysterious "writing process." I will be drawing upon so many others' works that there's simply no way to credit them all - even keep up with them! And any of the "original" ideas I bring you are far from truly original; I take no credit for anything I impart, aside from being the one who imparts it. What little I know I learned from others, and that is why I want to bring it to you.

Part of my learning process is rewriting what I've read. This has been true since I was a child; it is easier for me to understand and remember things once I have put them into my own words. And this allows me to do that while also helping others. But make no mistake about it, whatever conclusions I draw are literally drawn from the work of others and I will name some of them as I go along.

But I never wanted to write a novel, or a play, or a screenplay, or whatever (I wanted to write comic books, but that's actually not the point). The point I am making is that I am concerning myself with writing, in general. And because of that, some of what I bring you probably will not work for every format or situation. Just as I have done with what I've learned from others over the years, you should do with what I bring you: pick and choose and put it into your own words, so to speak. Adapt it to your process and hopefully some of what I say will prove helpful.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

No comments:

Post a Comment