Hello all, and welcome back to the River Blog! Apologies for the missed update last week, it’s been a bit crazy around here with my normal day job as a sales technician selling insulated concrete forms for building houses. But I won’t bore ya’ll with that unless you find foam forms fascinating.
When we last left off, I’d been talking about some of the interesting writing things I learned while working on my recent writing prompt, “The Sofa In The Lake,” and I promised to continue that this time. Now, it’s only fair to say that no writing advice is all perfect for all people. Talking and listening to a wide variety of other writers, both professionally published and amatuer hobbyist, has taught me that we all have different methods. I myself am quite a pantser; I get a general idea, but I HATE sitting down and trying to plot things detail by detail. This can get me in trouble sometimes when I get stuck, but it can also lead to some very fun surprises.
So, tl;dr: if none of this works for you, great! But you never know what advice might stick, so read on and hopefully something I saw will strike a good chord.
(Haha, get it, music puns… I’ll show myself out.)
Today’s lesson is: ASK FOR SUGGESTIONS!
“But Jenn! This is MY story! I don’t want people polluting my plot with their ideas! Besides, they’ll expect me to USE all their ideas, and they’ll be mad at me if it doesn’t work out, and it’ll put too much pressure on me and kill the story and SPOILERS and—!”
This advice is not as scary as you might think (if you even do think it’s scary; some of you may be like, “Yeah, duh”). Now, this tactic is much easier for short, on-the-fly stories where you literally don’t know what is going to happen next. I confess it CAN be harrowing to ask for advice on a bigger story that’s closer to your heart and have people give you suggestions that you just don’t like and you don’t know how to tell them no (especially if they seem REALLY PROUD OF THEIR IDEAS). But in my experience, most people who actually care enough to listen to you babble on about your story (oh how I babble) in the first place don’t care THAT much if you use their suggestions or not. So take that pressure off yourself. It’s okay to just kick around ideas for fun and say, “Haha, that would be funny,” and then not use it later. In short: CHILL.
The fact is (at least for me), sometimes you hit a wall. You’re just not sure what should happen next: WHY is the sofa moving on the bottom of the lake? Where does the garbage go? Personally, I like to talk to other people about my stories; I think hearing myself spell out the plot points helps my brain get itself in order and formulate new ideas. And sometimes, what people throw at you can be really helpful. You would not believe how many ideas for “The Sofa In The Lake” came from other people’s suggestions – or even misunderstandings!
Here are a few that influenced “The Sofa In The Lake:”
- Obviously, the writing prompt itself was thanks to my prompter, Doodleea. Sometimes it takes someone else’s cool idea to get you started.
- The invisible robots were my sister’s idea when we were brainstorming why the sofa was moving and no one had ever “seen” what cleaned the lake. The idea of little invisible robots was too fun to pass up.
- The teleporters came COMPLETELY from my brother misinterpreting a line of my story. When I wrote about a”blue circle” that Kenny saw right at the end of Part 1, I really meant it to poetically describe what Kenny would see as they fell down a hole: the “circle” was the top of the hole and the water visible beyond. But my bro was like, “I’m really interested to hear what that blue circle is.” And I, people-pleaser that I am, figured it would be really disappointing for him if the blue circle turned out to be something so boring. XD; So the teleporters came into being. AND BOY DID THEY BECOME IMPORTANT.
- That furniture “museum” in Part 3 was a late, random throw-in by my sister again; she had just read Part 2 and, when I asked her her thoughts, she was like, “I was kinda hoping it would turn out to be a kind of underground museum or something.” This suggestion stuck in my head. While perhaps not INTEGRAL to the plot, I enjoyed throwing that little detail into Part 3, and it WAS kind of useful and explained where the sofa came from. I love having explanations for the oddities of my story that really make sense.
As you can see, using these suggestions helped me flesh out my story. But they didn’t TAKE OVER my story. It’s still my story; but, by incorporating bits of others’ ideas, I was able to create a plot with a satisfactory level of action, depth, and fun. Sometimes you just need to get out of your own head for a few minutes and get fresh material so you can go back in and GET ‘ER DONE.
I suppose that’s enough for this week! Also, I realize I started out this blog talking more about encouraging-type things, and I wanted to let you all know that I don’t intend to stop that! It’s just an interesting process figuring out the balance of what I will write/post about, and this first writing prompt had given me a lot of fun fodder for writerly posts. I hope those of you here for the encouragement continue to stick around, and that those of you here for the writing bits will enjoy a little encouragement and positivity now and again!
Here’s a good story to round us off for the week. It talks about our value, which I think is very important. We all have an inherent value, determined by God, that can never be taken away – even by ourselves. I pray each of you experiences something in your life this coming week that reminds you of how valuable you really are, and inspires you to make the most of that value. =)
“A popular speaker started off a seminar by holding up a $20 bill. A crowd of 200 had gathered to hear him speak. He asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?”
200 hands went up.
He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you, but first, let me do this.” He crumpled the bill up.
He then asked, “Who still wants it?”
All 200 hands were still raised.
“Well,” he replied, “What if I do this?” Then he dropped the bill on the ground and stomped on it with his shoes.
He picked it up, and showed it to the crowd. The bill was all crumpled and dirty.
“Now who still wants it?”
All the hands still went up.
“My friends, I have just showed you a very important lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, life crumples us and grinds us into the dirt. We make bad decisions or deal with poor circumstances. We feel worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. You are special – Don’t ever forget it!”
Have a great week!