The Independent Author

Story Structure: Don't Be Captive

August 25, 2020 Tom Kranz Season 1 Episode 6
The Independent Author
Story Structure: Don't Be Captive
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

The writing process is different for everyone, from those who like to storyboard and outline every chapter to those who start with an idea and let the story wander along its rightful path. I found a short excerpt from a Stephen King interview from a few years ago in which he talks about the idea of letting a story find its own way. This formula makes for more of an adventure in writing, but it has its downsides.

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/tkbooks)

Tom Kranz :

Hello everyone, TK here, I thought that I would talk a little bit about the process of coming up with a story beginning, middle, and end. And some of the things that I've read on various social media posts and in some of the little mini books that you can download for free from so called experts at writing and self publishing, etc. I read one post on one of the independent author groups that I'm a member of, in which the author was boasting about the fact that he had outlined his entire book. He had all 50 some chapters, named and I guess he synopsized each one and now he was going to get to work on actually writing this book. I said to myself, I guess that's one way to do it. That way, I don't think whatever really worked for me, because I guess my process of writing begins with an idea. And it begins with a premise that, that I then kind of have to come up with a beginning in middle to. But to be very honest, I don't even really know when I'm starting to write a novel, what the end is going to be. I can say that, honestly, with the three novels I've written so far, and the one that I'm in the middle of writing right now, I have an idea and a launching point and I try to start strong, because my experience in the news business was when you got to when you're writing, you have to start strong and you have to save something good for the end, so you end strong as well. So, I start with my idea, and I just kind of let it let it weave itself through. I really am a believer in letting the story kind of go where it wants to go have its own inertia, if that makes any sense That's something that actually, I kind of feel as I'm writing the story, it starts as an idea. And as I start getting into the characters and kind of creating the people in the situations, I find that the story kind of dictates where it's going to go next. You know, the downside of that is that if you don't have an ending in mind, and if you don't have an outline or a storyboard, your story can end up being pretty disjointed. And it might take you forever to do. My very first novel, which is called "Budland". It's only 150 pages, but it took me 10 years to write. Why did it take 10 years to write? Not only was I doing other things at the time, I was writing I was working full time and I had a child in the process and I was moving to another city etc. But I was stuck for a whole year on how to end that thing. I really didn't know which way to go which way to take the character. And I finally just kind of reread what I had so far. And I determined that this character needs to, we need to end this the way this character would want to end this particular story. And it just kind of made sense to me. And that's the way I ended it and I don't think I would have gone back and changed it. I did similar thing with my next two novels. And again, the downside is it took longer to finish and I know this is probably making some of the more organized of you out there cringe but, you know, storyboarding a novel like that. It just doesn't, it kind of ropes you in, and it confines you into a set structure and a set set of circumstances and a sequence. And you know, God forbid, if while you're writing, the story takes a left turn and goes into a different place, now your structure is screwed up, your chapters are screwed up, your storyboard is screwed up, and you kind of feel like maybe not reinventing the wheel, but you have to kind of start reimagining your outline. And you know why do that? If you don't have an outline to begin with, you don't have to reimagine anything. Here's a little clip that I dug up from an interview that Stephen King did with a bank or TV station some years ago, in which he talks about the writing process. And he talks about basically what works for him. It's kind of a similar concept actually.

Stephen King :

There's no rationale. You go where the story leads you and in this case I had no idea it was going to have a dark conclusion. You know, you were mentioning before we got going Salem's Lot. And when I started that story, I thought to myself well, this will be the opposite of Dracula where the good guys win. In this in this book, the good guys are going to lose and everybody's going to become a vampire at the end of the book. And that didn't happen, because you go where the book leads you. And this one just led me into a very dark place. I didn't even want to go there. I want people to find it out for themselves. You never know. You never know. And sometimes it's it's a big and powerful machine. The best description of writing a novel that I ever heard, it's actually in Thomas Williams, his book "The Hair of Harold Roux", which is about a novelist trying to write a novel and it just covers like one or two days in this process, and a lot of things happen to him. It's a fabulous book. But he says that writing a novel is like building a little campfire on an empty dark plane. And one by one, these characters come out of the dark and each one has a little pile of wood and they put it on to fire and if you're very lucky before the fire goes out, it's this big bonfire and all the characters stand around it and warm themselves. And that's the way it's always been for me.

Tom Kranz :

And that's kind of where I am as well. Believe me, I'm no Stephen King. And I wish I had, you know, one 1,000,000th of his talent. But his idea that you kind of let the story go where it goes, that actually, I think there's a lot of wisdom in that. There's, it requires a little more patience and a little more faith in your own storytelling ability. But, you know, at the end of the day, when you read it, you may not even remember what you wrote at some point, you know, you you start filling in characters and circumstances and storylines. Suddenly, it's a week later, you go back and read what you wrote and it's like, wow, you can even be amazed at that that came out of your brain, you know? So, I guess the whole point of this podcast episode is to not let yourself be roped in by, you know by some preconceived outline or even a chapter, a chapter structure. Because that can really lead you into a very confined place. If you start just, just start to write and get down what's in your heart and what's what's your idea is and what you're feeling. It's a whole lot better than sitting and obsessing and doing outlines and trying to figure out in a more objective way, what you want to write about. You know, write about what you feel right, right from experience, and write for joy, and the rest will, the rest will come later when you do your second and third draft. So, good luck with all that. Let your heart be your guide. And don't let yourself be walled in by too many outlines and too much structure.

Stephen King on crafting a story and characters