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30 May 2007

I've got less than 24 hours to write a good story... [More:]
Not too bad of a task. But I'm curious to any other story writers, what do you do to get in the writing mood? I've got some ideas I think are good, but getting them out can be a bitch.
Just don't name any of your characters Jack Bauer. Please.
posted by wendell 30 May | 17:39
I can't write unless I'm in the mood, and unfortunately, it just doesn't strike me very often.

Maybe try writing what you know will be the funnest (what. it's a word) paragraph to write...?
posted by Specklet 30 May | 17:48
Maybe try writing what you know will be the funnest (what. it's a word) paragraph to write...?

I'm not sure if I should write about zombies, though.
posted by Citizen Premier 30 May | 17:50
Unfortunately, I've found that there's nothing I can do to get myself in the writing mood.

Either I'm in it, or I'm not.

When I'm in it, I can bang something out real quick-like.

When I'm not, there's no point in my even trying.

The way I know I'm in it? I know the first sentence and the last sentence. Everything else just kind of flows in to fill the gaps.

This doesn't really help you much, does it?

What's your story for? How long does it have to be? What are some of the ideas you're kicking around that you want to get out?
posted by dersins 30 May | 18:04
Well, I've got a last sentence: No, don't skate. Fly.
But no first. I'm thinking of a story about a club for old men who want to die on their feet. The characters for this story are rollerskating to death.

Maybe you're right and I should spend some time thinking of a perfect sentence to start it out. I was going to start with action, but I'm not sure I'm an action writer.
posted by Citizen Premier 30 May | 18:12
I find that watching a good, sort of dreamy movie or reading a book can help. Neil Gaiman is particularly good for this (for me). My other shortcut is to go through a book of folklore or fairy tales or something like that.

Alcohol helps too. Or other less legal substances. Not much; just enough to get things started. There's a reason there are so many drunk Irish poets.
posted by Fuzzbean 30 May | 18:17
first sentence:
"there once was a man from nantucket..."
posted by Wedge 30 May | 18:18
That's a great story idea. Love it.

It's good to start with action, even if you don't consider yourself an action writer.

Especially if the action takes us into what feels like the middle of things.

Either way, though, your first sentence should be your strongest, your last sentence your second strongest.

(NB: Yes, of course there are exceptions to this. There are ALWAYS exceptions. But, in general, it's mostly true.)
posted by dersins 30 May | 18:25
I was just explaining how I need about 4+ hours alone before my juices start to flow. I can't write on my work lunch break, in other words. I need solitude for my thoughts to wander and the "noise" to drop out of my consciousness. Listening to music helps. Strumming my guitar. Reading (the right things). Being outdoors is okay. Nothing gets me going, though, like reading the work of a peer. Something surprisingly good that kidna shames you but that you still know you can do better than if you really try. I guess I'm competitive that way.
posted by scarabic 30 May | 18:27
24 hours should give you plenty of time to die and be reborn. Write about what you saw while in transition.
posted by Eideteker 30 May | 18:39
Nothing gets me going, though, like reading the work of a peer. Something surprisingly good that kidna shames you but that you still know you can do better than if you really try. I guess I'm competitive that way.

Thus, the true value of workshops. Screw feedback. It's all about the competition.

No, I'm not being facetious.
posted by dersins 30 May | 18:41
It is, I agree. Nothing makes me want to write poetry like going to a poetry reading.
posted by Citizen Premier 30 May | 18:44
I'm a fan of just writing. There's always a couple of cold starts, but Ctrl-A is my friend. After a while something will start to pool and I'll have me a story.

But different horses for different courses.

Here's my option 2. I can't explain it, so I'll just do it.

Get that first line. You'll probably throw it away, but that doesn't matter.
Skate, Don't fly
Imagine that someone is saying this to someone else. You've immediately got two characters. One wants to skate and one wants to fly. There's conflict there & that's good. Plus, the person who said it, they either are the dominant character or they want to be. Choose option 2. People who think they're something they aren't is always good for the story.

There's some more choices to make. Does the person being told to skate or fly do the skating or do the flying. I'm gonna go with the skating. It's more different. Is the skating the right choice. My fiction head says that the skating is the right choice but for the wrong reasons. The skatings a pretty stupid way to go, but it'll all work out in the end. Well, almost work out. You want there to be an adventure, but you don't want it all to be nice. Skating is the slow option, so you want to it to take too long.

I'm going back on the wanting to be the dominant character thing here, and my story would go something like...

Character A decides finally to go up to see some old relative or mentor. He doesn't know if he should just go straight over or take the long way - make a bit of a holiday of it. There's a huge frozen lake here, and a custom to skate that lake when it's frozen. This is Character A's dream. Character B knows this, knows character A won't ever get to skate the lake unless he does it now. Character A is a busy person. Never gets to do anything like this. Switched off from the world, etc. Character B tells character A to skate. Character A takes B up on this and makes the difficult journey. It's a three week journey, probably more of a trudge through alaskan snow than a skate. On the way he meets a woman. Maybe meets a woman and a dog. Maybe doesn't meet anyone & is enough away from the rat race to appreciate the solitary life Character B has lived. Finds himself. Finally gets to B's house only to find out that B is dead. A doesn't follow through on his dream (dreamt up whilst on the snow) to live the solitary life but sells B's house and returns to the city. Knows that there was a perfect three weeks though. Holds the happy memory of that time entwined with grief. Time entwined with grief is represented with some metaphor of the ice. which should maybe be foreshadowed earlier.

I've a plot there. It's not a great story and I'm a bit worried that I'll be writing the English Patient. I may go over this synopsis a coupue of times. See if I can get rid of the "Straight to Video" feel I've given it. See if I can find something new or different.

Finally, I won't forget that It's flexible, It's just something to swing back at if the story wants it to go that way. Write each of the sections down separated by a couple of lines. Pick a random section. Start writing that section. If you get stuck, move on to new random section. If you get stuck, move on to a new random section. Don't go back to any sections until all sections have something written down in them.

That should give me a slightly disjointed story. Finally, I'll Spend a whole bunch of time fitting it together properly, tightening it up and generally making it work.
posted by seanyboy 30 May | 19:02
Just pull a log off the woodpile. You do have a woodpile, don't you? A notebook with fragments, musings and other words written for the sake of getting something on a page.

If not, write crap. Just start typing whatever comes to mind, even if it is no more than:

I have absolutely no idea what to write about. I have this stupid assignment and I am sitting here utterly clueless.

Something will eventually poke its head up.
posted by mischief 30 May | 19:13
Hmm... I just realized that making the main character, "Hermes," be black might not be a good idea. Or it might be.
posted by Citizen Premier 30 May | 19:27
Use the snowflake process!
posted by dhruva 30 May | 20:14