So as I was pondering today, it occurred to me that a lot of my best ideas come from mashing a lot of different themes, character ideas and plotlines together to make a new, chimerical monstrosity to work with. I’ve done it with a lot of my favorite stories, or at least parts of them.
How I typically put things together could be shown a bit more clearly by a short story I wrote called Killer. I pretty much started out with three ideas and smashed them together. The first was the character of Teancum, of Book of Mormon, spear-to-the-chest fame. He’s always kind of appealed to me, and the fact that he’s typically overlooked when those chapters are discussed added to my interest. Another idea was presented in a class I had during college, called Immunity and Infection. The teacher had been relating some information about various diseases, and mentioned an anecdote that caught my attention. He told a story about how a disgruntled employee had actually sprinkled Shigella bacteria on the donuts in the break room of the facility where she worked to get revenge on her coworkers. The sheer craziness of that situation was too good to pass up. The final piece to the puzzle, though was the whole idea of revenge versus justice. That theme has probably been done to death many, many times, but here was a way to approach it in an entirely new way. Thus, the story was born, and I think it turned out very well.
Wolfhound is one example of a novel when I did this, while Brellan is an example of a time when I didn’t. The former came together almost like the pieces of a puzzle, each character and plot event clicking in and settling perfectly against the others. All I had to do was write well enough to express what was going on, and the story took care of itself. The latter, on the other hand, seemed to make me work and fight for every page, and it always seemed a bit more insubstantial than some of my other stuff. When I finished the latest complete draft, I still felt uncomfortable with how it worked out, and from the start I knew it would need a lot of revision to work. From those experiences, it kind of seems like I just can’t write based on a single, overriding idea and have enough to keep the story really going. I need a bunch of stuff to bounce off of.
So that’s a writing technique I guess I use when I am putting together the idea for a story. How about you guys? Let me know if you have a particular way you work; it’s always interesting to me to see how my fellow writers think. Not that I have malicious plans about that or anything. Mwahahaha… See ya!