Where Stories Come from

Posted by houndrat on Thursday Mar 25, 2010 Under writing

And here we are, to the 4th and finally installment of Corrine Jackson’s How Writers Do It (Bom Chica Bom Bom–yeah, I’m still totally snickering at that title). This week’s topic is Where Stories Come From: From the time you get the idea for a novel to the day you first put your fingers to the keyboard, how does the story come to you? (i.e. Can also explore prepping to write your novel here)

Where do stories comes from?? That’s easy. Two simple words:? my butt.

Now that's what I call bootylicious

Now that's what I call bootylicious

Yeah, I was just dying to say that—unavoidable consequence of hanging out with a 6-yr-old boy. Sorry. But it’s pretty much true. I mean, prepping? What’s that? Does grabbing a chai latte and booting up my computer count?

Prepping, here I come!

Prepping, here I come!

I’m a pantser, through and through (although I’m trying to reform. Ask me how well that’s going once I’m halfway through my next novel. And don’t hold your breath.)

As much as I’d love to be different, I’m just not one of those fancy schmancy plotters—you know, those writers with the cute little outlines and the plot boards and highlighters and note cards. My novel ideas typically come to me randomly: while I’m in the shower, while I’m driving (sans kids, of course—the only thing that comes to me when I’m in the car with them is a serious need for Calgon and the Super Nanny). Oh, and hugely, when I’m running. Although I usually can’t write with music on, many, many a scene has been created while running to my favorite songs. Basically, an entire scene pops into my head. I hear the dialogue and feel the emotion, and then, run home to jot it down on paper.

My first novel Tainted was written almost entirely by madly typing out scenes that came to me while running, then piecing them together. And I didn’t even start at the beginning. Nope, I started with a scene about 2/3 of the way in (I think I just heard Laura McMeeking wince all the way from England.)

Seriously, though, I’ve been trying to change. With my WIP, I’ve been pondering things a great deal in my head before plunging recklessly on (I’ve got about 10k right now). It’s really challenging to nail exactly who my MC is, and I want to get it just right. So I’ve been putting her through some mental drills. I have a feeling, though, I’m not *really* going to know what she’s all about until I commit her more to paper. Writing is a pretty organic thing for me.

Wow. Organic Coke?  Really?

Wow. Organic Coke? Really?

In Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell talks about both the non-outliners (NOPs) and the outliners (Ops).

Of the NOPs he says:

The joy of being a NOP is that you get to fall in love every day. The heartache comes when you look back and see nothing resembling plot.

Admit it. All you outlining types are gloating just a little right now (and stroking your note cards lovingly—STOP THAT!) But not so fast. Here’s what he has to say about the Ops:

The value of the OP approach is that, with experience, one can virtually guarantee a solidly structured plot. The danger, however, is the lack of freshness and spontaneity the NOPs are known for.

His solution? Try a little of both. Use structure/attention to plot prior to writing, yet give yourself freedom to vary from your outlines or note cards. But whether you’re a NOP or OP, the two things he definitely recommends doing before starting to write your story are:

1) Use the LOCK system to flesh out your story. LOCK stands for Lead, Objective, Confrontation, and Knockout—a set of principles he thinks guides all successful novels.

2) Write the back cover blurb

Hope this was informative helpful didn’t totally put you to sleep! Thanks again to Corrine Jackson for her great prompts on the writing process! Don’t forget to visit her blog and the other 8 writers who posted on this subject. Plus, PRIZES–YAY!

Happy Writing!

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13 Responses to “Where Stories Come from”

  1. Kate Says:

    Ah, the classic “my butt” response. I was very tempted to use “your mom.”

  2. misty provencher Says:

    Love it, love it, love it. Writing also comes from my butt~ so I suppose I am a NOP without a plot. Butt, I’m in love. Loved your post!

  3. Shadow Says:

    Hey, great advice. More of a pantser myself, but I have been holding to a bit of an outline. Never going to completely reform, but it does make for a stronger story.

  4. Karla Nellenbach Says:

    Sadly, I am an OP…I can’t help it. Do you think there might be some kind of medication for that or at least a meeting I could attend?

  5. Cory Says:

    I’m both an NOP and an OP. I do an outline, but try to be free with it. And it is hard to pinpoint the exact moment an idea sparked because it’s usually a culmination of things that have been floating through your head.

  6. Tracey Says:

    Dude, it always come from the butt. It’s just that no one else has had the guts to admit it before. :-D

    I am an outliner, and oddly enough that’s not enough to guarantee a coherent plot, but nor do I ever feel a lack of spontaneity. Must be ’cause my outlines are spontaneously incoherent.

  7. ChristaCarol Says:

    I’m a panster. A dreamer panster. I daydream, ponder in the head, write what I think when it’s strange hours of the night, but don’t outline, and only think to a certain point and then wing it. Your tags inspire me to be more creative with mine :P

  8. Jamie Says:

    Put me down for a NOP. I might start over a few times, but once I take off – look out! PLot – what’s plot? Did we cover that??? Oh, and your driving experiences sound identical to mine. Calgon and Supernanny FTW.

  9. Jennifer (Herb) Says:

    Chai, I love to drink chai!! And I’m a NOP on most days and if I become an OP, then I no longer want to write because I know what is coming. And um, Supernanny?? I’m there!

  10. Bee Says:

    Haha..such a cool post!

    Must do the ‘write the back cover blurb’. I do so much of the spontaneous writing thing, my plot goes for a toss :(

  11. Leila Says:

    I really like the idea of combining both approaches. I’m definitely more an NOP, but these days I try to have a rough map in my head of where things are going so I know what direction things are heading in, even if I don’t know exactly how they’ll get there. Because yeah. Editing plotless stories is a HUGE headache.

  12. Bryn Says:

    I tend to write a few thousand words of random scenes before I even know what the story is about or who the main character is. Outlining is what happens after I have 100K words, and can’t figure out how they all fit together…

  13. Corrine Jackson » How Writers Do It: A Writing Process Series – Part Four Says:

    [...] Debra Driza: James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure [...]

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