Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Old Habits Die Hard

Duck and cover! Here comes another writing epiphany!

Okay, so after struggling with “process” for what seems like an eternity (but which is only the past three years), I’ve finally figured out my brain is stuck in graduate school mode. Yep, I can blame all my problems on those two years mired in academic methodology.

Whew, lucky I figured it out, huh?

Consider this: no matter the field of study—in my case it was organizational behavior—when you write a paper, you start with an hypothesis. Next, you establish your research methodology, then you gather the data and analyze it. Finally, you record your conclusion.

In other words, the end comes from the means.

Well, in fiction, it’s the opposite. You start with the end, then create the means.

(Knocked your sox off there, didn’t I?)

The first clue glimmered in something I read in Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. I’ve always written scenes in a linear progression: Character A does or says something causing Character B to say or do something appropriate in response, yada yada, until I arrive at the scene-ending disaster, surprise, cliffhanger, whathaveyou. So, I’ve been laboring over creating those A to B chains when…hmmm…mightn’t it be easier to start at the end and work backward?? Ah, start with the end, then create the means. I like that!

Likewise, last night I was reading Karen Wiesner’s book First Draft in 30 Days when the same thought struck me regarding secondary characters. Remember those children in my current WIP? The ones that keep getting in my way? Well, guess what? I’ve gone about creating them all wrong. Instead of trying to figure out who they are, I need to figure out who they need to be at the end. And, more importantly, who my main character needs them to be in order for her to be who I need her to be at the end. (Are you following this? No? Well, trust me. Again, start with the end, then create the means.)

I love epiphanies, don’t you?

5 comments:

John said...

I would love it if you let me read something you wrote. So far, in two years, I've read about this crazy lady going to Mexico, where you left her and me.

Carol B. said...

Believe me, John, she's talented and has a great voice.

Randy, I get what you're saying - it's kinda like starting with The End and writing backwards, only you have to do it with everything, right? Characters, scenes, chapters...

John said...

Well, Carol B, Randy may just be a fantastic writer. She also can be stubborn and has sharing issues.

So, to address another blog entry, an unwritten Randy New Year's resolution could be to .... ......... ....... to me.

Happy New Year, Randy. Here's hoping you ... .... in the new year and ... ........., too. There, all of the resolutions are unwritten, just .......

Happy New Year to Brooke, if you are looking, Carl B, too.

Most of all, thanks for keeping your blog going, Randy. You have really done well. Take care.

randy said...

Just in case y'all think John may be an Internet Perv, I'll "out" what I guess he's talking about. Yes, John. I figured you'd mention I oughta make a New Year's resolution to quit smoking. Probably not gonna happen. At least not yet, or in that way. That's what you were talking about, right? Not sure about the second one. Thanks for the nice comments on my blog. It's nice to be appreciated! Hope you're New Year is full of great new job opportunities and lots of writing.

John said...

send something written

nip cigs

get published

You got one out of three.