Autism

I’ve realized I don’t talk much about being autistic. When I started the blog, I’d intended to, but I haven’t. When I thought about why not, I realized it’s because no one really knows what “autism” is. People who have it know what their experience is, but as far as I can tell, “autism” itself is the new umbrella diagnosis for any kind of social ineptitude that can’t be explained otherwise.

I think this is a thing psychology does. Anyone else remember back in the 70’s through 90’s (or so) when almost every boy had ADD or HDAD (and when they combined the two)? Any child, particularly boys, who had trouble paying attention in class seemed to get labeled as ADD. If they fidgeted, they were HDAD. As time went on, medical science (both mental and physical) seemed to out there was other explanations and now there’s not so many cases. Or, at least, that’s my experience of it.

It seems to me like that’s what happened to autism. Any social ineptitude that can’t be explained some other way becomes autism. It’s not that there’s a plague of autistic children, it’s that the definition seems to be catch-all.

So it’s no surprise that no one knows what autism is because it’s pretty much everything that’s not something else as far as I can tell.

The other thing is things like the terms “high-functioning” and “low-functioning” that gets attached to autism. Not only does those say so much nothing (functional or non-functional–is that so hard?), but it also gives people the total wrong impression about how it is to be autistic.

I can’t help but think that most people think of spectrum of autism is like this

Low-Functioning                                    AUTISTIC                                       High-Functioning

It’s not that simple. Nothing in life is really ever that simple.

It seems like it should be because most people don’t think about what it means to be successfully “social”. It’s so natural to people without a problem that it’s not thought through. Being social means being able to respond correctly to conversation; join in conversation easily; to comprehend what is being said as it is meant; to be able to start a conversation with family, friend, authority figure, or a stranger; to be place a phone call–every little action it takes to be part of human interaction is a different possibility for success, failure and anywhere in between.

For instance, because I can start a conversation with a stranger, go grocery shopping or hold down a job doesn’t mean that I don’t have problems being social. I am pretty much utterly literal. It’s literally taken me decades to learn to consider tone of voice as well as words being used. I have been known to argue dictionary definitions against colloquialisms I’ve never heard and aren’t apparent in usage. Most humor doesn’t register with me. When I think something is supposed to be funny, (even professional comedians) I look to whoever;s around to be certain. Please don’t waste your puns around me, I don’t get them. Even in writing. (Honestly, puns just register as ignorance at using the wrong word. Seriously.)
Have too many people in a conversation and I start to shut down. I can’t do large, loud parties anymore because that’s one of the few things that has caused a large emotional/mental melt-down. On top of all that, Tact and I have only been recently introduced, so I still struggle with not just blurting whatever I’m thinking, though I did learn to stay silent as a child most times.

I have a friend with an autistic son who is also considered high-functioning, however he has difficulty having a conversation with anyone he doesn’t already know. He has never held a job. Sometimes he has difficulties talking to his aide, though he’ll talk to his cats endlessly. Yet, we’re both on the same place on that scale, but we’re not in the same place in functionality.

Sometimes I think of autism as more of a graph, with an X and Y axis, but even that’s not quite right because I’m not sure there’s one universal set of X and Y’s.

Not a wonder no one knows what autism is when I think about it. I have it and, frankly, I’m not always sure what it is. I just know my brain is wired differently than pretty much everyone I know and I’m the one who’s always had to learn to cope. And I have. I’m functional in the world, to various levels of success.

There’s some of my thoughts about being an adult autistic. You can see why writing fiction can be a challenge sometimes. I have dreams of writing an autistic protagonist/narrator at some point, but I’m definitely not certain he will be sympathetic or even comprehensible to most readers. It certainly would be interesting to see if the experience is cathartic or panic-inducing. Won’t know until I try, I guess.

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More Worldbuilding Musing

The How to Train Your Dragon movies and its TV series do what I’m talking about when I say “mugging myths”. In their case, the myth they mug are what we think we know about Vikings, as well as some historically accurate things about them.

The modern view of the Vikings are hairy barbarians wearing horned helmets plundering anything that’s not nailed down. Women wore metal breastplates and joined in the fun with the guys. I’m not sure where this view came from, but it’s been perpetuated a lot in Hollywood and the opera. It’s become a myth about the Vikings.

When creating, it helps to remember what the audience thinks it knows rather than what’s real. The creators of How to Train Your Dragon does this in spades, and uses some of it to hang the world on. After all, they’re not really doing history anyway since there’s dragons in this world. Why not have fun with it?

In the first movie, we’re introduced to Berk, a Viking settlement on a remote, rocky island. It seems to be off on its own, separated from any other Viking contact and dealing with the regular dragon attacks on its livestock and all-too-flammable wooden buildings. That it’s separated from a larger Viking community is odd, historically, but is nicely explained in the second movie when Stoick (Berk’s chief) reveals that there was an incident years ago where the chiefs had gathered to discuss the dragon problem, were attacked by dragons and he was the only survivor. This is a brilliant explanation that deepens the world.

Historically, the Vikings of Iceland would gather for a Thing, which was a gathering of the king, chieftains, warriors and priests to discuss disagreements, feuds, trade negotiations and whatever things (this meeting is where the word “thing” came from, FWIW), needed to be decided. It was traditionally held away on neutral ground, so no one held the home court advantage. So when Stoick talks about this meeting being attacked and everyone killed but himself, it rings true. For those clans who lost their chiefs to hear the story that dragons attacked, but only one man survived…well, that sounds really suspicious, doesn’t it? It’s not a surprise that Berk was ostracized from the rest of Viking society.

Now, it doesn’t matter if the viewer knows about the Thing. It’s tidbit of fact that wove into the fabric of their story, bringing an authority to it.

I think I just hit on something there: The real facts, the familiar woven into our fiction is what makes it real to the reader.

Perhaps the essence of mugging myths, or history, or…anything is to figure out the facts, the familiar things in it that ring true into your story and make certain you incorporate it.

I might have to think about this.

Creating an SF/F Modern World

My good friend June is the best worldbuilder I’ve ever met. I’ve seen her create a world on Friday afternoon, discuss it with friends that night and have a friend finish a story in that world on Sunday evening. She creates playable gaming worlds on the fly. She’s amazing. Everything I know about worldbuilding, I’ve learned from her.

In her estimation, the hardest worldbuilding there is in SF/F fiction is creating an SF/F modern world. Why? It’s a little complicated.

In order to have a believable world in fiction, you’ve got to present it well enough and have it be realistically consistent enough for the reader to forget they’re reading and buy into what you present.

When you’re writing a full Science Fiction or Fantasy novel and you’re inventing everything, that’s not so hard. I mean, if you’re writing about a world you totally created, who’s to say that culture doesn’t work like that? If your book takes place on a planet orbiting twin suns, there’s scientific theory to deal with, but who’s to say what the culture and society would be but the author? As long as you put things together in a way that reads interesting and consistent, you can pretty much do what you want.

Now bring the story into the real world and everyone thinks they know how this world works.

And they do, as far as their perception goes. And that’s where it gets complicated.

Everyone’s view point is colored by their own experiences. Someone who grew up rich in New York is going to have a different experience of the same culture than someone who lived homeless in the same city. Someone growing up middle class in Chicago is going to have yet a different experience. A white middle class person is going to have a different experience than a person of color in the same city. Growing up during the Reagan Era will give someone a different experience than someone who was young adult, an adult or a retiree at that time. Everyone’s understanding of the same thing is different.

Because of the fundamental human fact, the writer still has to do all the work of getting the story’s definition of the real world into the book well enough that the reader forgets their own experience and biases to fall into the created one.

This can be especially challenging if your story revolves around some aspect of society (government, military, police, elderly, race) being either glorified of vilified. Depending on the reader’s experience, that might make it an easier, or highly difficult, sell.

When adding SF/F elements, it becomes a delicate balancing act to maintain the believablility of the real world. After all, if all you’re adding are little touches that are difficult to dramatize and/or doesn’t really impact the story, why go to the work of putting it in? Gotta make it big enough to justify the effort.

One famous way of doing this is to make the this easier is to keep the Other a secret to the real world or a separated world, at least at the start. (This doesn’t include cross-over stories where characters from the real world suddenly find themselves in the other world. The real world is a frame, not the main story world.) Depending on your story, that can world marvelously. There’s many wonderful stories set like that.

However, when your story demands that it be our world with other elements, you have to make a lot of decisions. What’s necessary for your story to happen? What’s your geek points about an SF/F modern world that makes it worth writing? How much do you want to stay the same?
And know that, no matter what you decide, people will hate it. Even if they love your story, there will be people who hate what you decided to keep and what you decided to change. But, then, that’s true for anything about writing, so you should be prepped for it.

For the Magical Crimes Unit, it’s a geek point that it takes place in this world (circa 2000 CE), but magic has always been. There are other races of humans (dwarves, trolls, goblins, werewolves, merefolk, etc.) that have always been. They are citizens. They have jobs. They pay taxes. And some of them have magic which are unique to them.

But if magic always is, why is there technology? My answer: Because magic isn’t cost-effective to use instead of technology. Just because magic is known and the vast majority of people have talent with it, it doesn’t mean it’s the answer to everything. Just like being able to create art, or comprehending mathematics or science, being able to close a sale or win friends is something that everyone can do, people have varying levels of talent and interest in doing it. Magic is no different in this world.

This allows me to keep much of the world we live in the same, but it also should subtly clue the reader into a base fact in this series: Magic will never be the solution to the conflict. It will often be part of the conflict, but it will never be the solution. Magic doesn’t exist to make it easier for the hero. It exists to make the conflict more interesting to read (and fun to write).

As for social implications of having other races there, the impacts of these facts on history, well, we’ll see what points will impact the story I’m telling. I’m a true believer in not creating more than what affects the story at that moment in the story.

Thus far, people have liked the way I’ve mixed the real world and the fantastic, so I have some confidence in going forward as I have.

What challenges or successes have you had in creating a modern-day fantasy/science fiction world?

Writing is Frustrating

Everyone has their own style of getting words out of their head. I used to say “onto paper”, but that’s not generally how I work anymore, though occasionally I still do it. Anyway, everyone has their own way of doing it.

Some very fortunate people can sit down and start writing at the beginning, go all the way through to the end and get a first draft.

I used to be fortunate. I’m not anymore. But, then, I wasn’t usually thrilled with what I came up with when I was done, so I guess I wasn’t that fortunate after all.

Nowadays, I write a few hundred, maybe even a few thousand words. Then I realize something I forgot, so I go back and rewrite a portion. Then I write a bit more, then I realize I’d started everything too early or too late, so I have to write the more correct beginning. Which usually requires some amount of rewriting of the previous beginning so it works. Assuming I can use the previous beginning, of course.

Then I get to write some more, before I realize I’d forgotten this particular scene bit, so I have to rewrite again. Then I can write some more. Maybe a lot more. It differs.

At some point, a major character will suddenly *CLICK* in my head. That’s how I discover characters, by writing them in context, you see. Then I have to go back to the beginning and rewrite everything having to do with that character, which usually impacts everything else around it. Hopefully, I don’t have to change the main plot points a lot in that rewrite. Hopefully.

Repeat that step for every major character that suddenly goes *CLICK*–which could be every major character.

Adjust that step for every world/plot realization that happens because, yeah, sometimes my creative mind will just throw things into my conscious mind that make me stop and be amazed. However, there are many times when I go back to rewrite to set that up and discover that all the set-up is already there, I just hadn’t been conscious of it before that moment.

I’ve learned to trust my creative mind, but it’s not very good at giving me these things at the START of the process. Which is why it’s a step or two forward, then go back, then forward, then back, then forward some more.

It’s a highly frustrating process, I admit. But it creates good stories, so I deal with the frustration as best I can, day to day.

Though I do think back when writing was straightforward, just dumping words on the page and miss the ease of it. What’s the phrase? No pain, no gain? Apparently that applies to writing too.

The World of The Magical Crimes Unit

My shorthand summary of the world is: “A magical Pittsburgh where there’s trolls under all the bridges, werewolves are your neighbors and many goblins are lawyers.”

It’s catchy, but when writing, there’s more to creating the world than that.

Sure, those things exist, but are they considered people or not? If they are people there’s so many hows to consider: How are they people? How are they accepted and dealt with? How does that change the modern world we live in today? How has that impacted the history of the world? How do I handle people’s natural racism and prejudice?

Considering I want to pretty much write the modern world with magic, I had to think about how this would change things, yet allow it to stay fundamentally the same as the Pittsburgh and the US that we know.

Quick answer: Yes, they are people. They’re part of the Human Race. They are not Homo Sapiens Sapiens, of course, but they are human. The human race has actual other races in this world.

Which makes the root of racism much more valid than it is in real life. They’re not Homo Sapiens Sapiens, after all, as modern humans are. Humanity doesn’t have to look for excuses to feel superior than others in skin tone, religion or region of origin. Racism is actually against other races in this world.

Simple facts blow big holes in my mind every time.

Now I admit, I’m not the fastest worldbuilder I know, but I have learned a great deal from one of the best worldbuilders I know. It’s taken a while, and I think I’ve gotten the kernels correct, so it’s time to start growing the world beyond the first few written stories.

Since I brought it up, these books aren’t about racism. That topic is one of the hot buttons in today’s news, so it will come to mind. In this fictional Pittsburgh, USA, racism is the same as it is today, but different. A few people out there are rabid racists against one or more race that isn’t theirs. and are generally loud and obnoxious about it. There are stereotypes that exist about all human races that are just accepted without general questions (and, yes, Hollywood hasn’t helped those matters there too–no reason to change that). But the average person just deals with people as people and has problems with individuals, not entire races. That’s my experience in real life, so it’s translated into the world.

If you would like to read more about the world, the races of Human, and have me answer questions, consider patroning me at Patreon.

2017 Changes

If at first you don’t succeed; try, try again.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on the blog. I think I warned people that I might well go long times between posts. If not, I apologize because I should have.

2017 turned out to be a pretty lousy year on so many levels. It started off with me unemployed and my best friend/housemate breaking her ankle. Not just breaking her ankle, but breaking it in the 2nd worse way it’s possible to break an ankle. That resulted in us swapping living spaces (she got my ground floor apt, I took her 2nd story), along with her being unable to basically function for roughly 2-3 months. Oh, and I got a temp job that started three days after she broke her ankle. Yeah.

That job lasted roughly two months, then I was unemployed again. Which was good for helping her with her ankle, tough on all money fronts. And as many people know, the less money, the more stress. The more stress, the less creativity.

It took a little while to get another temp job, this one lasting six months. It was a high-mental-stress job, and I came home mentally exhausted pretty much every day. That job ending was both a blessing and a problem, because I’m presently unemployed yet again.

My previous times without gainful employment has proven that we can barely survive on what we have coming in from various sources. I’ve signed up with a number of temp companies and a head hunter, but jobs aren’t forthcoming. Thus, I made a decision that I wasn’t certain I wanted to, but now that I’ve made it, I’m committing to it.

I’ve opened a page on Patreon.com: Deleyan’s Patreon page. I am committing to writing every day (but Sunday), regardless of whatever else is happening. In the last week, I’ve added roughly 15 pages to the book in progress. For those patroning me for at least $3.00, I’m giving snippets from each day’s writing.

It’s kinda frightening to ask people to patron my work. That anyone has agreed already is humbling, that someone believes in me and mine that much. But I possess a very strong work ethnic, so this is now the day job, this is what’s bringing in however much money, and I will endeavor to give what I’ve promised.

And so, there might well be more blog posts and I move forward in this full-time writing mode. While I’ve been unemployed before in my life, I’ve never really treated writing like a money job, giving it all the effort and dedication that I have any other job I’ve taken in my life. Here’s to doing my damnedest here as I have every other job.

I’m dedicated to writing the Magical Crime Unit series. This world was created in my short story Alchemy of a Murder and is expanding into a series of novels and other short stories. I’ll likely post more about it as I canoodle world, plot and writing Mysteries set in an Urban Fantasy world.

Running on Empty

I don’t know how many others have said or felt that there’s only so much energy for any given story. And when that runs out, it’s damnedably hard to keep going without some kind of motivation.

I’ve hit that point with Legend’s End.

Now, I’ve hit that point with this particular book many times. I’ve struggled more with this particular book than I have with any other book I’ve written. It’s to be expected because after many decades of doing things wrong, I decided to not stay in my comfortable writing ruts. This has been a big experiment book, trying to discover what’s natural and what’s been piled on during all the years of “how to write” nonsense. Frustration and problems were expected.

And those frustrations and problems were overcome. Writing this book has gone in lots of stops and starts as I figured things out. What works, what kinda works, what really sucks. Some of the how-to-write stuff is helpful. Most is not. To some extend, I’ll probably be figuring that out for the rest of my creative life.

But this, this is different. I’m probably 1-2000 words from finishing this book. Probably about 3-6 scenes, at most. And it’s like pulling hen’s teeth to put words down on it.

Sitting here, staring at the file, I realized what the problem is now.

I’m damned tired of making decisions for this story.

That’s what writing is, after all. Making decisions and putting that into words. Then explore the ramifications of said decisions. Then make more decisions, and keep going and going and going until all the questions have been answered and there’s no more decisions to be made. Everything’s tied up for this story. Yeah, there might be a sequel, but that’s a different story.

Now I’m to the point where there’s not many decisions left. Yeah, I’ll press on and get it finished. Yes, I will put proper consideration into it. But at this point in time, at the heat of the climax, these decisions have normally been no-brainers. Obvious. Natural.

As I type this, I wonder if I’ve done something horribly wrong in the telling of this story that I’m to this point and it’s not natural or obvious. And, if I have screwed up, dear ghods, what will I do then with this book? It’s not something I want to think about. And when I finish the book, I’ll have to look at that possibility. Even more, I’ll run the risk of not seeing it myself and discover it only when my betas read it.

So maybe this is a tired born of procrastination–something else I’m not accustomed to in my writing. Ah, the joys and wonders of learning something new.

World Building Confessions

The biggest confession I have about world building is–I despise it. I loathe it. There are not enough words to say how much I dislike world building. It is far from one of my natural writing talents. I have spent decades sucking Gibraltar through a bar straw with world building.

That said, the only thing I really want to write is Fantasy. Which means I had to find a way to make world building work for me.

The first option is the obvious one: Take an Earth culture and adapt it.

Simple, right? Well, it doesn’t work without more thinking about it. Pre-Christian Ireland (one of my favorite eras and cultures) is that way because of the land, the weather, the resources, the people who settled there and what they valued. Let’s change something simple, like giving them coinage instead of a barter system. Yes, it makes them not-Pre-Christian Ireland, but if that’s the only thing I change, then the world doesn’t feel right.

And it doesn’t feel right, basically, because I don’t want to do the work and ask questions to make it right. So what I get is a fallow area that doesn’t contribute to the story.

In Fantasy, the world has to be the richest source of story growth because that’s where everything fantastic comes from.

And story growth is things that sparks questions. You’ve got to ask the questions. You’ve got to follow the logic of those questions and see if that’s where you want it to go. Find a variety of answers. See what grows the best story.

But I didn’t care for many years. I hated world building, so I did as little of it as I possibly could. I mean, I didn’t actually have to do the stuff I hated, right?

Yeah. I was self-delusional for a long, long time. Decades.

Then I met someone who not only became my best friend, but she is the most naturally gifted world builder I’ve ever personally known. I’ve seen her sit for a half-hour and create an entire world that four people can role play in and it all hangs together perfectly. I envied her that, but it all worked out. She couldn’t plot for spit and envied me my natural talent there.

Over the years of our friendship, she taught me some basic world building tips that have improved my stories massively. I still dislike world building intensely, but I’ve gotten to the point where I can do some good work without feeling like I’m flaying my soul during the process.

What I realized is that I was uncomfortable coming up with all those questions I mentioned before. The questions that enrich the world, which affects the concepts leading to characters, conflict and all the elements of story. I was uncertain that I would be asking the right questions. I was afraid of doing it wrong.

It took a long time, years, for me to figure out that there aren’t any wrong questions. There aren’t really right questions. All the questions are for is to get me to think about things outside of whatever’s comfortable. Once I accepted that, I can’t stop myself from coming up with questions now.

Her tip? Find a “world feel” and use that as the ruler for all other ideas.

Sounds both simple and hard, which it is.

Because a “world feel” can be anything. “Magical Pittsburgh” is the world feel for my series of short stories. As I mentioned in the previous post, Crimson and Crystal. is the world feel for my MIP, Legend’s End.

So how does that work? Making a song into a world feel.

Basically, it boils down to: I hope to make people feel about this world the way I feel when I hear this song.

I find the song haunting, mystic and beautiful. It’s filled with longing, hope, and a touch of despair. There’s no confusion, it’s all very clear, very right there.

Now the questions start–what kind of culture makes me think of mystic, beauty and haunting? Or at least two out of three? What can I do to add the missing element? How do I keep it all clear? What attitudes, traditions or plot elements will lend the longing, hope and despair? Is there any way I can tie some of those elements into other areas of the world?

Once I have a firm sense of what the world feel is, when something comes up while writing, I can see if it fits. Weird things will come out of my imagination. I’ll be writing and they’re just be there. If they fit, they stay in and flavor the story. Often, they’ll become more important as I keep writing, lending itself perfectly to a plot twist, act as a foreshadow, or just giving real motivation for a character to do something.

Figuring out how to ask questions has opened the world building for me. I’ve actually gotten compliments on the world building in my recent works, so there’s come validation. It feels good not to be fumbling so badly anymore.

Ideas Become a Story Seed

Ideas come constantly and some stay for ages before they’re actually used. The novel I’m working to finish now is the result of long-lasting ideas coming together at the same time. So set the Way-Back Machine and let’s trace how things came together for Legend’s End.

Back in 1979, I started attending SF/F conventions and discovered filk. (That’s not a typo anymore, it’s what SF/F music is called.). One the songs I heard and loved was Crimson and Crystal by Cynthia McQuillan. Even simply played on a guitar and sung, it was haunting. Unlike many of the other songs I loved, I didn’t recognize a book or movie that might’ve inspired it. I determined to write a book someday that song might be filk of.

Fast forward to 1986 when Julia Ecklar recorded Divine Intervention, going outside the traditional voice and guitar and using a fuller orchestral experience and her own awesome voice. While the album contains many of her own fantastic songs, track three is Crimson and Crystal. The orchestration magnified all my feelings for that song and renewed my determination to write something inspired by it. But I’d also matured enough as a writer to know I didn’t have anything at the time.

So the idea went into the eternally simmering pot in the back of my mind.

When 2000 brought the launch of the Xmen movie franchise, one of my favorite fandoms got a kick in the pants. Hugh Jackman brought one of my favorite comic book characters to life: Wolverine. His is a different interpretation from the simplistic quasi-psychopath in the books, which worked and I liked it.

Talking to a good writer friend some years later, she told me about a world she’d invented where immortals had been created in ancient times, so I decided to translate the movie Logan into her world and we started role playing there. Over many RPs and several years, that character came into his own and, as I’m wont to do, I wanted to write a book about him.

The world he “grew up in” belonged to my friend, so that wouldn’t work, so I had to find a world, a plot, a story, that he would fit into. In 2006, I decided officially participate in NaNo at the writer’s site I was active in at that time. I decided to grab my Logan-clone and do something with him. But I needed at least a world and a conflict idea to pull it off.

I guess I kinda turned the simmering pot up to boil, in a manner of speaking. I wanted something to bubble up and I was open to whatever ideas it might toss at my consciousness.

On the commute home on day, I popped in Divine Intervention and started singing along. And up came Track 3. Something twinged inside my head, but I couldn’t grasp it. I put the song on repeat and played it the entire trip. I put headphones on at home and kept repeating the song over and over and over.

My first thought was that my immortal character could be the singer of the song–he would have a unique relationship with Lady Death, after all. But that wasn’t it. It just wasn’t it.

What it was hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks: This wasn’t a character or a plot or anything, this song was the World. (More on that in another post, probably the next one.)

Then things started coming together, the feel of the fantasy, the type of magics I’d be working with, societies, and such.

But I still didn’t have a conflict. Immortal vs. Lady Death just didn’t cut it.

And here’s where myth mugging came into play. Y’know how I said that I get a zillion ideas in my breakfast cereal? Well, one popped out of “nowhere” to smack me between the eyes:

What would happen if a reborn king is murdered on the eve of saving his country?

Y’know, like Arthur is Britain’s reborn king–there, waiting somewhere, to be called to save his country when it’s in dire need. What would happen?

Somehow, in my mind, that dovetailed into all the thoughts of the immortal guy, Lady Death and a world based on a haunting song. It all came together so that when November 1st arrived, I could start writing.

Now, mind you, I failed that NaNo. I didn’t get 50K words. I got about 35K or so. The push to just get words didn’t work for me and I had pages and pages of word salad. So I went back, started to work through it, to get things together, adjusting characters, pulling it this way and that until it finally jived. I worked on it, on and off, since then. But the initial ideas came together to form a story seed with so much energy, I haven’t been able to put it away and forget about it in all this time.

And the ghods willing and the creek don’t rise, it’ll be finished very soon. Wish me luck.

Planting Story Seeds

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post about Ideas and Story Seeds. Thought I’d follow up on those thoughts since I’ve had some time to consider my process post-idea.

So, I’ve gotten a story seed that really grabs me. Even more, I’ve got the time and energy to actually write something. What now?

As far as I can tell, that answer starts with what kind of story seed it turned out to be.

Usually, the story seed I have has to “planted”, which means more questions. Lots and lots of questions. What kind of world would allow this story to happen? What are the story jobs I’ll need to “hire” characters for? What kind of plot points sound interesting and exciting? (For many authors, questions about themes/moral attitudes will come up too, but I prefer to find those organically within the pages as I write.)

As I answer these questions, and all the ones that come up because of those answers, the seed starts to disappear and the story itself starts to grow. At some point in the writing, the seed has spread throughout the work and is gone in its original form.

The other, more rare (for me), kind of story seed is “the perfect moment”. It’s so vivid in my mind, that it’s–it’s just THERE. The entire story is just to frame the perfection of the story seed. I don’t want it to change. I want to weave the story carefully around this little bit of perfection so it’s showcased exactly as I imagined it.

To date, I’ve only been successful in that kind of story when I that “perfect moment” fit within a fandom and I could write a fanfic out of it. Being able to draw from established worlds and characters, with all the underlying work therein, have I been able to focus on that story seed and keep it pristine in what I have to put around it to make it a story.

I have one seed that doesn’t fit into any fandom, though. I’ve tried to do the same kind of work around it, the weight of the creation–I don’t know–crushes it. Muddies it. Covers it with stuff so it’s no longer what I wanted and I gave it up in disgust.

I have to assume there are people who can do this in original fiction. Say what you like about Twilight, but to hear Stephanie Meyer talk about her process, she found the way to move from that fanfic to original fiction and keep that seed perfectly intact. And readers appeared to have appreciated that ability.

If someone has found other types of story seeds, or ways to get stories started, I’d love to hear about them.

As I’m pushing to get a novel finished by the end of July (a personal quasi-NANO effort), I’ll likely be posting more about process and this particular novel. It would be nice to get some convos going.

What’s your experiences with story seeds and getting them growing?

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