Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Story is a Puzzle

I swear, I cannot just sit down and write a story straight through from start to finish.  When I have an idea for a story I want to tell, I see it in segments.  Little moments in time play out in my head, and I learn about who my characters are by seeing how they react to a certain critical moment.  From there, with this knowledge, I wonder about who they are and how they came to be that person.  What life events shaped them?  Then more scenes spring up in my head like weeds, often growing out of control.  I have to prune them back, shape them so that I have a chance of managing them.

For me, writing is like putting together the disjointed pieces of a puzzle, but the pieces don’t quite fit when I put them on the table.  I have to arrange them in a way I think looks right, then sand the edges until I can get them to fit together.  And even then, characters and situations in the fragmented narrative resist alteration.  Somehow, from me they have gained an identity and momentum all their own, and though I strive for some kind of control, I soon realize that I have lost it and merely need to hold on for the ride.

Why can’t this be easy?  I have so many ideas I don’t know where to start, but it’s a long way from a mess of a rough draft scribbled in my notebook (and yes, weird as it is, I write my first drafts out by hand in a well-worn notebook)to a finished product.  And like most writers, no matter what I do and how much I revise, I always feel like it isn’t ever quite right.  I guess it's a reality I just need to get used to.

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