I think I put this off long enough… or have I…?
Ok, I have… fine. Those that read my Images in Your Head post are probably wondering about how that “study” has progressed. Well, incidentally, I plugged it through Reddit, mostly to test the usefulness of Reddit for a friend, and after 2 years of finding that most people are the 2/3 and only couple some-of-somewhat-vaguely 1/3, I have discovered that all the actually fully 1/3 seem to be on Reddit… I’m not really sure what that means for Reddit, but shit, I got a lot of hits from there.
What does this have to do with the exercises? I originally re-posted that bit to try to figure out the non-visual types better because I wasn’t sure how my exercises would work for them. Now… I am still rather less than completely sure, but far as I can tell, they actually might not. But, as stated at the start of all this, “this isn’t the definitive guide to how everyone does or should write a story, this is only me doing the best I can to tell you how I write a story,” so the best I can do, is give you the exercises that I do to write a story as such. But, for you non-visuals out there, if this doesn’t help you in the least, do not feel discouraged from writing if that is really what you want to do with your life—remember that the existence of you people was brought to my attention largely by a pair of writers. I have yet to meet CE Murphy, however I have had the chance to meet Faith Hunter via conventions and FB, and have had at least enough random conversation talk with her to tell you that she would be willing to help you if you only ask (and possibly bribe her with cake).
And for those really curious about the results from my “1/3 search”, I may try to put together a follow-up at some point, possibly containing a mini-interview with Faith if I can get our free-time to be in existence at the same time.
I know, I know… shut-up… gees…
To find inspiration… so many ways… Take in stories from everywhere: books, TV, movies, music, people watching—lots of all of it.
As an exercise, go to a mall with notebook and pen in hand (I upgraded to a smartphone for the sake of making it easier to follow the most important rule of writers: always carry a notebook and pen). About mid-way in the mall, there is usually a bench, no matter which entry a person comes in, they will more than likely pass that point… sit there. Relax, and just sit and watch… take in everything… if you want you can add the music element (give the watching a soundtrack). If you’re in school, even easier… you’re surrounded by so many people of so many sorts… look at all those different people… dear god, you have a full cast of character sitting before you… the awkward, the popular, the jock… introverts and extroverts of all scales, shapes and sizes.
Go to this school/mall/public place where you can sit in the background…
- pick one person… anyone… they’re your main character now. Give them a name… give them a history… don’t even worry about the story forward yet, just tell me about that one person’s life… who are they.
- Now… pick another person… anyone… another character… how does that person’s life tie to the first? Are they friends, enemies… the person that passes up the first every day at school and doesn’t know they exist? Why?
Do this… do this often… on paper, in your head, doesn’t matter… just keep doing it until you’re doing it without even thinking about it anymore. Remember… it’s all wax-on/wax-off one moment, and beating a guy to death the next… now get waxing.
Another exercise along similar lines—remember that music mentioned before? Yea, did you try it with the people watching? Did it help? What if you can’t get out of your house for whatever reason, but the music is still there? Well… I’m presently listening to Volbeat’s new album ‘Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies’ on Spotify, and I’m finding myself needing to fight back the demons of inspiration screaming to work on ‘Natural Selection,’ but I say, “Fuck you, demons, I have to finish ‘Stiym’! Shut-up-shut-up-shut-up!” (Don’t worry, insanity just means you’re a writer now—and I will be doing more with ‘Natural Selection’ eventually, it’s unavoidable at this point, but I have to finish ‘Stiym’ first). As I was saying, get hold of an album by whatever means you do that these days… I won’t ask questions. Doesn’t really matter what you pick… well, let’s lean more towards lyric heavy music for now, but styles otherwise doesn’t matter for now. Listen to those songs, so many metaphors… but of course, you know that metaphor is actually about drugs… and that one is just sex… and I’m pretty sure that one is just something he looked up in a rhyming dictionary and hoped no one asked. Listen again, instead of translating the metaphors to what was probably intended, make them more literal… the dragon is now a dragon. I wrote a few different songs drawn from Pantera’s ‘Far Beyond Driven’… ‘Syn: Eternal’ was started with no more than the randomly yelled line “head-butts of broken glass!”… and at least one story can be considered completely original since I later found out I had almost all the lyrics wrong… good times. Simple task… listen to the lyrics… take in each word, create a story with them, try to apply this to the people watching later even.
Ok, last exercise for now… close your eyes… well, not now… finish read this first… then, close your eyes:
- You’re sitting on the ground, you feel the grass below you, and you smell it all around you. Somewhere there is a stream babbling in the distance… to your left someone says something to you… Who are they? What do they say?
- The person leaves your side, you see them walking in front of you, they’re about to leave your view… How does this make you feel? Should you follow them—should you stay—why?
As I once told someone that greatly inspired my decision to try write this how-to, a lot of story writing is mostly just you coming up with a vague idea, and then after that idea is written out, and you now have to figure out where to go, it will just be you asking questions. The more you do the people watching and the music listening, etc, the less this question asking will be conscious… it will just be you beating a guy to death.
(…to be continued…)
- Images in Your Head (anthonyricher.wordpress.com)
- How I Write: Part 2 (anthonyricher.wordpress.com)
- How I Write: Part 1 (anthonyricher.wordpress.com)