Knock, knock. Here’s trouble. We all have them, don’t we? Why wouldn’t we, we’re constantly surrounded by the most dangerous species on this planet…HUMANS. The thing is, it would be boring without them. Our troubles teach us so many things. We learn, we evolve, we become better versions of ourselves.
Doesn’t the same apply to our unsuspecting characters? We would never want to read a story about a character who is fully content and has absolutely no problems or cares in the world. He’s just breezing through the story with a smile plastered on his perfect, symmetrical face. BORING. We want characters with hidden scars and secrets. Even better if we only get to find out a few, as long as we know they’re all there. They don’t call it ‘sweet sorrow’ for nothing. Our characters should face their demons and come out victorious because all their troubles have prepared them for it. That’s what makes the ride worth it, at least, for me.
Sure, trouble isn’t always fun, but the main thing to remember is that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Let our characters show us that there is hope and that we are strong, but even stronger than we know.
Like a carousel with haunting horses and dark chariots.
Some people might think that themes are unnecessary creativity stifling monsters that force you to actually think about your story and go deep, but since when are those bad things? There’s something to be said for just writing, and thinking can sometimes block you. However, there will be moments, especially at the start of a story, that your mind will block because you HAVEN’T thought about your story. Every character needs a main reason to do what they do and be who they are. It’s the same for the story itself. What drives the story? Including all its characters combined. It’s the base, the centre. Without that, the story won’t spin around.
I’ll give an example. At some point a writing bug caught me and I started working on a story involving a weird circus. I was inspired by an image and really wanted to create something wondrous to do that image justice. However, I was stuck after four pages. Why? Because of the theme. What was this story about? What did I want the characters to learn? To achieve? What was the point of it all? I’d put the curious girl and her fearful friend in the circus. They’d seen exotic animals without leashes, a mirror hall that showed strange reflections, and circus people that could give Lady Gaga a run for her money. But what was I going to do with them afterwards? I had just thrown them in there without instructions. Poor characters.
I find it difficult to think of a theme. I find it extremely difficult to think of where they are going. Yet, if I want to do my story justice (and I do), then I have to brainstorm on this. I have to figure them out. I have to put the story and its characters on that sofa and ask them psychologist-y questions, travel deep into their minds with pickaxes because that is kind of what writers do. And isn’t it wonderful?
I like to move it, move it…to a new home. It’s been a few weeks since I left the nest and set up camp in my very own apartment (with a balcony and French doors, thank you very much). I have tasted freedom before so now that I have a steady income you can imagine my joy that finally I could find my own place. Don’t get me started on my pet dragons. Initially they don’t like change but now they’re flying around the place like butterflies on drugs.
It does mean that writing has taken a back seat and it is not happy about that. It keeps asking me if we’re there yet and sulks like nobody’s business. I feel guilty, but contrary to popular belief, writers are human and sometimes life locks our characters in the basement and swallows the key.
Dust settles, however. And before you’ve even taken out the key, creativity is already seeping through the keyhole. What you bottle up, must always come out. So here’s to a new home and to new stories.
My muse has been playing truant since a few weeks ago. I wrote the first draft of my first magical realism novel and it was one hell of a ride. It’s probably the story I’m most proud of and I can’t explain why. Perhaps because I’ve done my best to add some beautiful prose, or because it has an Addams Family feel to it. But man, it was so frustrating, because after rereading it and getting back feedback from my ninja readers I realised I had to rewrite the ending. It was as slow and painful as having my nails pulled out. Exaggerating? Me? Nah.
My heels spontaneously began to drag themselves when my creative mind hit a brick wall covered in thorns and barbed wire. Somehow I couldn’t even work on other projects, because deep down I wanted to finish this story first. I had to. But how could I when my characters were playing hide and seek without having told me?
So as you can guess, I haven’t written in a while and as a writer, that is torture. I felt like a flower who hadn’t been watered. But today, finally, I had my eureka moment! Nothing is as enticing as a blank page and a pen. It’s like putting a chocolate cake in front of someone who’s extremely hungry. I had to write but didn’t really know what. My thoughts drifted to my story and I thought about the theme and what my character really wanted in those final pages. And bam, I had an idea. And bam, I started writing. And BAM, I had my flow back! Oh, finally. I’m no longer starving for words. What a relief.
For a while I thought I would have to lick the words from the books I have, but none taste as good as my own. Anyway, I’ll stop being weird. My point is that there’s no rush. At least, not when you don’t have an agent (yet). Sometimes it’s good to distract yourself with other things before having another brainstorm session. Sometimes it’s good to let your story sink in. Sometimes it’s necessary.