Ever since my post last Wednesday about bones, I have been obsessed with this notion on structure. What is it? Why have I not really studied before? Where will this obsession lead me? Why am I so obsessed with it?
Our stories are cathedrals and our outlines, research and rough drafts are the blueprints by which they are built. Our scaffolding becomes the rib cages, fingers, toes of these tales. These bones are essence: they ARE the story but they are parts no one sees, from grammar and word choice to the month long backstory of the main character’s best friend that makes him come alive on page 14.
This essence is also what’s missing from my long put-off story. I have a story approaching its 11th birthday. No, I’ve not worked on it every day for eleven years, but it was born eleven years ago and I have been through three drafts and countless rewrites. Why didn’t it work? It’s a story I truly believe in but no matter what I did, what I tried it just didn’t work. And now I understand: my structure was all wrong and, therefore, the skin was too tight and uncomfortable.
But why I kept asking. WHY was the skin too tight? WHY were bones made of glass instead of iron? Simple.
I have been trying to tell this story instead of letting it come to me and be told.
I’m not sure if this makes much sense. I mean, aren’t we the writers the creators of worlds and builders of dreams? Aren’t we the knitters of flesh and blood, the architects of imagination? Well, yes, but –and here’s where things get a bit esoteric – we aren’t in control.
Before you run away, screaming, allow me to explain. We are given these visions as gifts. We can’t control when they come, if they come, and of what topic they carry when they arrive. All we can do is show up at our writing desk and hope the muse decides to perch on our shoulder. And when he or she or it does, blast off! Or, more importantly, get out of the way and write.
So. I’ve been in my own way. Actually, I’ve been in my character’s way. I’ve been forcing them in itchy wool turtlenecks that are two sizes too small. And they’re pissed and rightfully so.
What do I plan to do about it? Let out a good scream, that’s what. Over all the years and pages and ideas and edits and whatever else that I’ve poured into those 1500+ pages. I’ll scream again at my own resistance to truth telling because I’m afraid that I might offend someone (more on this in another post later this week).
And after the echoes subside, I’ll sit down with a pen, a piece of paper, and an empty mind and ask the story to kindly write itself. And I shall drink coffee, transcribe what I’m told, and stay out of the way.
Have you been guilty of wrestling a story to your own ideas? Is fear preventing you from telling the truth of your story? What about structure? How strong are your bones? Am I just obsessing over nothing? Talk to me!