What is “The Way?”
The Way is a writing method that works for you, and everyone’s Way is different. This could be as simple as writing a shitty first draft that goes all over the place with inconsistent characters and plot holes large enough to drive a football stadium through and loose ends that blow in the breeze like underpants on a laundry line (I imagine old timey bloomers when I envision this).
That’s how I used to do it.
Or it could look like intricate plot diagrams and scene lists that map out every single detail of the story down to the color of the characters’ teeth at any given moment depending on what he or she ate or drank that day.
*YAWN* That’s how I would NEVER do it (okay, I can’t say never, but I find the passion of writing is in discovering the story as I go. Knowing everything before I begin is a major creativity killer, for me).
As you know, I took Laura Baker’s Discovering Story Magic back in January, and for the first time I truly believe I have found MY Way. Or at least part of it… I’m a Pantser at heart so it was tough to find a way to organize my writing style. DSM did it for me!
Let me start with what I loved about the techniques taught in the class:
1. I know my main characters really well through discovering their emotional drives using “The Grid.” (The Grid incorporates things such as Inciting Incident, Long Range Goal, Character Flaw, Relationship Barrier, Black Moment, Realization – all driven by emotions).
2. I know the major turning points for each of my main characters (which provides a little map of my story so I don’t get lost. I know what to write toward and what to write away from).
3. There’s enough unknown story left over to keep it fun and exciting, which is what I love about Pantsing.
So, I have my grids on poster boards hanging on the closet doors in my office for easy visual reference while I write.
And then I started writing…
I started writing with these grids in mind and my main character took his own course of action and became someone different than I planned. Okay, that’s fine. I went back to his Grid and made some changes to his Long Range Goal that I thought incorporated his new drives and probably muddied up the whole character, since I didn’t have Ms. Baker right there to ask “does this work?”
(As a writer, I seek outside validation all the time. But I’m learning to validate myself, so when I made this change, I looked at the rest of the grid and tried to think about what the change would mean. How it would impact the rest of the work I did in the class. And really, it added new depth to the story and the character. At least I think it did.)
Back to what I learned…
The turning points are emotional turning points in which the Protagonist (defined as the character who changes the most – in my words) goes through subtle shifts and ultimately changes by the end of the book, aka “The Realization.”
Since I’m writing a possible trilogy, the shifts my protagonist goes through are smaller and not so clear cut. This made the class a little more difficult for me. But Ms. Baker’s motto is “take what you like and leave the rest.” Basically, if you find something that works for you, use it. If there’s something that doesn’t, leave it.
The thing I DO like about the turning points is that I have goals to work toward in my plot and characters, but there is a LOT of plot left over. That means there will still be surprises. Which there already have been in the first 50 pages. THAT is what I LOVE about writing — when my characters surprise me.
So, while the entire Discovering Story Magic class isn’t MY Way, some of it did work for me. But I have to say, I’m letting this story become what it wants to become. I’m keeping The Grids in mind, but I’m not going to let them stifle where this story wants to go.
It is a story about balance, and in writing it, I will need to discover my own balance of plotting and pantsing, or Plotsing, or whatever they call a combination of the two these days (Plotster?).
Until next time,
Peace and Keep Writing!
Claire L. Fishback