A Guest Post by RJ Terrell
There are so many interesting discussions between storytellers about the creative/creation process, how it works, and what is actually going on when it’s working. There are some who turn to the spiritual side of things, saying that when the writing begins to flow, it’s like they are only a vessel being used by (insert whichever term suits you) to record the tale being produced upon the page to which some lucky individuals will one day read. The process starts out mechanically, then eventually becomes a magical, otherworldly type of spiritual experience that makes the heart sing.
Then there are those who approach it from a scientific angle. You’ve done the preparation, gathered the necessary information and established a strong enough foundation for the story that you are simply filling it in, and that the process has become smooth to the point that there is very little struggle to know what comes next.
There are also those who say the process is that of momentum. You start writing, and even though the wheels are bringing in an eye-burning symphony of -‘how the hell can I be a writer with this drivel?’- disharmonic (that’s not actually a word but I’m going with it) textual torture, the words will eventually begin to flow smoothly if you stay the course. This hearkens to the much used analogy of building a snowball big enough to build on its own once you reach the decline.
I feel that the only true answer to this question is that they are all correct, depending on the individual. Some writers are very much into the scientific process of writing, going from one step to the next and keeping all the ducks not only in a row, but in a perfectly straight row with no outliers moseying around. Others take a fly by the seat of the pants approach. Such is not generally recommended, but for some, it works.
For my part, I tend to stand with one foot firmly planted in the boats of the first and second scenario. I feel that proper planning and laying of foundation is essential to crafting a strong story, and without this, one can find themselves written into a corner and not knowing what to do next. I wrote my first book by the seat of my pants and spent many a day sitting in that exact corner, wondering what the heck was coming next. For the second book I wrote a one paragraph crude outline, and a one and a half page crude outline for the third book. Little did I know that (before I’d taken a single workshop at the time) I was coming to realize that my stories would flow more smoothly and be stronger and more well written with the benefit of an outline as their foundation.
My second foot, being planted firmly in the boat of spirit, feels that indeed there is a magical thing that happens when the story starts to flow and it’s more like I’m along for the ride rather than carrying the load. I have fond memories of introducing a character who was only meant to be beaten up in one scene before the main characters moved along. By the time his full description was finished, he was an important character to the trilogy itself, and ended up being one of my favorite characters that I will one day return to.
So is it science? Are the numbers and equations and exact angles and methods what leads to a good story?
Or is it spirit? Does our soul, or a higher entity take over and bring us along for the ride in a thrilling creation of fictitious history?
Or perhaps magic? Are the Fiction Elves whispering magical resonance in our ears, imparting tales of great characters and struggles only the men and women of a world far removed from our own could overcome?
It could be none of the above, but anyone who has written more than a few words will know that is untrue. It could be one. It could be some. For myself, a writer who writes in various genres from epic fantasy to thrillers, my heart lies strongest in the world of fantasy. And what fantasy writer could every tell a tale without the loving whispers of the Fiction Elves resonating in our ears?
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R. J. Terrell was instantly a lover of fantasy the day he opened R. A. Salvatore’s: The Crystal Shard. Years (and many devoured books) later he decided to put pen to paper for his first novel. After a bout with aching carpals, he decided to try the keyboard instead, and the words began to flow. When not writing, he enjoys reading, video games, and long walks with his wife around Stanley Park in Vancouver BC.
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