That mess of veneered particle board you’re looking at is about to become a rather dashing two-drawer filing cabinet. I know this because I’ve already put one together, so I have faith that this one will turn into its twin, and I’ll finally…finally! Be able to put my old story files and contracts in order.
I said I have faith because I’ve done this before, but little certainty because it was a couple of months ago. I was…interrupted, shall we say, by events beyond my control. I barely remember how I got the first one together and the instructions, to put it mildly, are rather lacking. No matter, now that I can lift my left arm again, I have confidence that I’ll puzzle this one out as well, and finally have the storage I need. Yet I have no doubt it won’t be easy, but that’s not important. I’m used to it. Hard? Sure. Except….
Writing a story is harder. You don’t have any directions, unless you’re one of those lucky sorts who can plot out an entire trilogy before you’ve written a word of it. I am not one of those people. I don’t even have ideas that any rational person would recognize as such. Usually it’s just a notion, but more often a character. I set them loose and follow them. If I’ve chosen well, they go to interesting places and do interesting things, and meet interesting characters, and my job is mostly chronicler. If I do that right, they’ll usually let me in on what they’re really up to, because a story–one worth its salt, that is–has two main components: what happens, and what it’s about. They are almost never the same thing.
Unlike the filing cabinet and its instructions, which say what they are and they are no more than that, just get the parts together in the right order, and you’re done. Writing really does not work that way. Sometimes I find myself praying for a good set of instructions, but then I usually remember that is not the point. Some days that’s harder than others, but if wanted easy I’d put together another filing cabinet.
Sage wisdom. Thank you. Sometimes I feel like I am just taking dictation from my characters. I like your term better. From now on I am going to say I am chronicling the adventures of my characters. I don’t even mind that they want to tell me their stories usually between two and three in the morning when I’m trying to sleep. Although I do sometimes feel funny when the people who are proof reading my book ask me what is going to happen next and I tell them I am not exactly sure because my characters haven’t told me as yet.
I’ve said before that most of the time I write the story to find out how it turns out, since otherwise I’d never know.