During the process of creating links for last Monday’s post, I stumbled upon Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s website (author of my personal favorite, The Velvet Room, among many others). One of the first things I noticed was a section called, “To Fellow Writers.” I clicked on it, saw it contained a reprint of a 1993 article called, “To Be A “Storyteller” (in which she discusses her Notebook Method of plotting) and left the tab open so I could read it at a later time. I’m so glad I did!
I read it yesterday, while I was yet again
getting distracted by the interwebz trying to figure out how to approach rewriting my 2011 NaNo novel, and found it completely inspiring (especially her love/hate relationship with the word, “Storyteller”). In fact, I’ve added, “loose leaf notebook, paper, and tab pages” to my shopping list. I highly recommend you read the whole article for yourself, but here’s a snippet –
I STILL begin a story by indulging in what has always been for me a form of self-entertainment. I look for a character or characters and a beginning situation that cries out to be explored and embellished–or “embroidered,” as my mother used to say reprovingly. This beginning situation must be something that connects directly to my long-established urge to find excitement, mystery, and high emotion in the midst of even the most prosaic circumstances. And over the years I have found that if such an element is lacking, I should not look for other reasons to continue work on that particular story idea.
For me, at least, a theme to develop, a problem to explore, or a message to be delivered, doesn’t do it. I know because I’ve tried. I have started books with a particular message in mind, only to find that my plot mires down and my characters refuse to come to life.
This is not to say that my stories contain no references to problems that have been of concern to me, or causes I would like to promote. I just find it better to start with the joy and excitement of letting my imagination run wild–and let the messages take care of themselves–because they can and will. Messages are, I think, unavoidable. Anything a writer cares or feels deeply about will inevitably find its way into what he or she writes. However, I have found that it is better, when I start out on a new literary journey, to let messages climb into the back seat on their own, rather than to invite them to take the wheel.
Do you have a favorite inspirational article about the writing process? Be sure to shout out!