I’ve been challenged to write a story based on a picture, which is cool, but I must confess…
I have never written fiction.
Oh, that’s not entirely true. A year ago November I wrote 50,000 words of fiction. 1667 words per day. A novel, to be sure. Or, at least, the makings of one. I was challenged back then by Damn, Girl to participate in NaNoWriMo and I took up the challenge. I had this novel floating around in the back of my mind that I outlined in 1993 but never wrote. A month after I outlined it I turned it into the introductory adventure of a new superhero RPG campaign and my wife made a character for it. We’ve now run 630 continuous such adventures based in that world over the course of the last 25 years. Plenty of material there.
But when December 1st , 2017 came along, I set the half-completed manuscript aside and never looked at it again. In that same vein I’ve probably started 600 short stories in my 50 years of life, but I’ve never finished one. Most I didn’t even save.
It doesn’t make any sense to me. My 10,000 hours of human mastery, as explained by Malcom Gladwell, is undoubtedly my ability to make up stories. As a lifetime gamemaster I can put adventures together in a pinch, combining disparate characters (and players) into a concentrated whole, invent a universe around them, and quickly create an integrated story to be enjoyed by all. My ability to portray non-player characters that are rich and believable has been remarked upon by many throughout the years.
So imagination, I would say, is not my failing.
I also believe I’m fairly talented at crafting sentences. I get the whole concept of nouns and verbs and adjectives. Putting them together to produce long, drawn out sentences that don’t feel overly produced – while holding to a modicum of interlaced adverbs – comes fairly naturally to me. Short sentences do, too. Mixing them together to create interesting paragraphs and, like, blogs and things is kind of fun.
So it’s not that I can’t write.
I just can’t seem to put my imagination and writing together to produce fiction.
You tell me. Put on your analyst cap and, with brutal honesty, tell me why Tom can’t (to this point) weave yarns. And, if you’d be so bold, take it one step further and tell me how you do it. Do you have a process?
For example, do you outline?
- Man walks through forest clearing, thinking about his prey and the damage that it has unintentionally caused. Allude to length of hunt.
- Man thinks how lucky it was that the prey’s last leap didn’t land on a farmhouse or other domicile.
- The Hulk
- Slowly reveal that this man, and his team, have been hunting Dr Banner’s alter ego for some time.
- Team finds Banner, sleeping, sets a perimeter.
- Banner wakes.
- Banner escapes the clutches of his hunters, running into the forest blindly.
- Team catches up with frantic prey at bottom of cliff-face. Cornered.
- That is not good for the team.
- Team picks up the shattered refuse of yet another unsuccessful hunt, continues chase.
- Team comes upon a shattered farm house at the bottom of the prey’s last leap.
Or do you just start writing and let the chapters unfold?
The destruction is terrible; it always is. Branches, entire trees, as old as the county itself broken – shattered – without forethought or regret. The terrible thing just bounded this way and then bounded away. We are ants in his giant world. Tiny things hardly visible in his perception, only noticed when our anthills block his path, however barely, or when we deign to pinch him. Our mightiest assaults are only that to him, a pinch.
But we have to find a way to kill him.
Or is it something else for you entirely?
I’m legitimately curious as to your thoughts, and as to your approach. Lord knows I have failed, time and again, to get my stories to start somewhere, move somewhere, and finish somewhere.
Are some of us just not built for writing fiction?