Writing a Story-Part 2a: Roughin’ It with Ideas

In Part 1, the conceptualization happened when daughter decided that she was done playing.  Here in Part 2, we’ll be focused on Pre-Writing and the Rough Draft.  With pre-writing, I’ll be jotting down some notions that I’ve had in my mind for the story.  Pre-Writing is also where I set some of the direction for the story.  In the Rough Draft part, I’ll actually put some of those notions into action.

Pre-Writing–have an idea about the conflict

So I’ve got this concept.  A little girl is hunting monsters, but life keeps getting in her way.  I like the concept because the plot of the story seems ready for launch.  For those interested in writing (or writing picture books), it’s important to know where to find the conflict.  You’ve got around 1000 words to tell a story from beginning to end.  Each word counts!

The conflict as I see it, is between the girl and nature (or reality).  She really wants to find this monster.  It should go smoothly if it weren’t for: her mother, the weather, her rotten sister, etc.

Also during pre-writing, it’s a great time to compare what might be similar. There are millions of picture books out there, so it’s important to see what has been done and how it was done well.  Note: this isn’t to say, “That story is already been done.  Think of something new!”  In life, there are VERY FEW new stories.  Comparing your story to other stories is a way to see what that other author did well, what “mechanics” (if you will) work for the story.

Since I’m going to be playing around with Reality vs. Fantasy, there’s a huge selection of picture books to consider.  One quick comparison that immediately comes to mind to me is “There’s an Alligator Under My Bed” by Mercer Mayer

Front Cover

The main character is out to catch an alligator (my main character is going to try to catch a monster).  His parents can’t find it, so it’s up to him.  This little story plays up the idea of what is real and what is not.  Is there REALLY an alligator under his bed?

What is even more interesting, in my opinion though, is how main character doesn’t care about proving there is an alligator, he KNOWS there is an alligator and he wants it GONE.

I think it’s how fast the main character jumps toward solving the problem that I find inspiring.  It’s something I’ll be thinking about while I write.

As for the truth about the alligator?  The reader never gets to know.  I like that too.

The Rough Draft

Oh boy.  Here we go.  So in the rough draft, I’ll be trying to stay focused on simply getting the story from start to finish.  There’s going to be A LOT of re-writing, but I want to keep a couple things in mind.

1)Keep pushing through, even if I feel stuck–even if I write myself into a corner, I can just come back later

2)Be aware of the word count, but don’t be married to it.–the very first rough draft should be about getting the ideas down.  Word choice is essential in picture books, but it’s important first to see how the story flows.

3)Keep in mind, this is the first draft!  Try to keep focused on what I see in my mind, but don’t be so locked in that the story can’t breath and improvise.

Ready?  Ready.  On your mark, get set…GO!

 

 

 

Writing a Story-Part 1: A Concept is Born

Hi everyone,

As a fun exercise, I decided that I’ll share with you all the way that I come up with a picture book story, to writing the draft, to going through editing, to then looking around for publishers and agents where it could possibly be a fit.

Lots of people share a lot of ideas about the “writing process”, but I thought it would be interesting to actually show my work in progress as I chug along.  Hopefully this will be as interesting for you as it is for me.  Who knows, I might even get a neat little story out of this.

So let’s start with CONCEPTUALIZATION

In my previous post I talked about Rory’s Story Dice and how that is a great way to get the creative juices flowing.  But of course, like anything else, there is no one way to “discover a story” that rests inside your mind.  Many times, life will also just kind of hit you over the head and say, “THERE!  THERE is a story!”

And such a thing happened to me today.

We live right near a civil war battlefield and my wife and I took the kids for a walk through it this morning.  Right near the entrance of the walking path, there was part of an old brick sidewalk. Most of it was covered up with asphalt, but there was some you could see.  It was only about three feet in diameter and kind of oval shaped.  I’m not sure why the park people decided to cover up the brickwork, but it seemed like they did so a long time ago.  Not that this mattered to my daughter.

Ella said, “Look!  A clue!  It’s a brick monster’s footprint!”  And she wouldn’t stop talking about our search for the brick monster.  As we walked through the park she would run over and look at trees, rocks on the ground, or even dead bugs–all in the name of discovering this brick monster.

When it was time for us to go home, I asked if she wanted to draw a picture of the brick monster.  She did and this is what she drew (which is now taped to our front door–should the brick monster show up)

Brick Monster-Ella

Which is not exactly what I thought a brick monster would look like.  I kind of pictured the Thing from the Fantastic Four.  But of course, we’ve been reading Korgi (by Christian Slade [which you should go buy!]) and in Book 3, the bad guys look like this:

Korgi-Bad Brothers

Anyway, Ella and I kept up this brick monster hunt for most of the morning.  I hadn’t been thinking about picture books in particular; I just wanted to enjoy her creative play for as long as possible.  It felt like one of those mornings where life was great as a dad.

We were wandering around the backyard.  She had a plastic baseball bat.  I had my cup of coffee.  When all of a sudden, we walked out of the shade and it got a bit hot.

Ella said, “I’m tired.  I’m going inside.”

I found this incredibly funny.  Here we are, exploring the backyard for the nefarious brick monster, she’s wielding a magical bat (dipped in the “power water” from the purple dinosaur kiddie pool), and a bit Georgia heat caused the entire story to come crumbling down.

That, to me, had the rumblings of a story in it.  So much so, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  How kids play.  How their imaginations work.  How kids can swim in and out of these amazing fantasy worlds and then run to their parents when they need a snack.

It seems like a pretty fun idea to play around with.

So with play time having come and gone, here’s what I came up with for my story:

1. The main “gimmick” is going to be the interplay between a grand adventure and small events that bring everything back to a mundane reality.

2. The main character is going to be a girl.  She’s going to be on a monster hunt.

I have no idea how the story is going to end.  I’m not really sure what the events will be.   I’m not even sure if I’ll go for a sweet funny story or something just a bit bizarre/zany.

That said, my mind is now rolling ideas around with my concept.  In my next post, I’m going to take my 2 “knowns” and put together the first draft.  After that, I’ll be taking that draft to my critique group to see what they think.  Then we’ll head into rewriting (and rewriting and rewriting).

Stay tuned!

Anthony

Writer’s Block vs. The Rolling Dice

If you’ve ever had Writer’s Block, you know how frustrating it can be.  I know there are times where I’m sitting in front of the screen, cursor blinking at me, taunting me, just judging me and my stupid brain.  Oh, how I loathe the blinking cursor.

So if that is ever you, might I suggest this fun little game to shake out the cobwebs and even jump start an idea or two.  Rory’s Story Cubes are 9 dice that come in an orange bag.  On each of the die are different images that, when you roll them together, you get a slightly “rorshachian” experience.  Take a look at the picture below…

Original

What would you do with a bumblee bee, a sheep, a key, and a pyramid?  Can you find a story inside those images?

Every time I’ve used the story cubes, I feel like I’m getting a “cheat sheet” inside my brain.  It just gives a little jolt and a few story snippets start to appear.

What’s more is that I’ve used these at my clinical office and the kids like ‘em as much as I do.  Come to think of it, I think these were probably geared toward kids and not writers–but who really cares…when you are hunting for ideas, you’ll take’em where you can find ‘em.

I bought my set at Wal-Mart, but you can get them anywhere.  There’s even a really cheap iPad version of the game.

So there you have it.  An inside tip on coming up with ideas.  Sure you can sit outside and stare at the clouds until something clicks (which I have been known to do) OR you could also have some fun and roll some dice!  Who knows, a pretty good picture book idea might just pop out.

Of course, you could also go in an even more random direction and try this.

(uh…my very first random sentence was “The vessel detects the milky waste.”

…What?!?)

Feel free to tell me about your Random Sentences or Story Cube stories below!  I might even have a contest or two where we all use the same cubes to see what kind of crazy stuff pops up.

Have a good one,

Anthony