Aaaaand welcome back to the River Blog, my friends! Quick update: I probably won’t have a journal up next week because I’m going to Aruba. It’s a working trip; our family business of insulated concrete forms has been helping a church down there build with our forms, and my bro and I are gonna head down to help out for a bit. Obviously no fun will be had. None whatsoever. Certainly none that involves getting away from the mercurial weather temperament of Ohio.
But in the spirit of the wonderful holiday coming up the weekend after I get back, I figure I’ll go ahead and share one of my favorite self-discovered writing tricks with you guys. This is a GREAT trick for if you’re not feeling inspired, or if you’re coming up with a short story on the fly (like I did with “The Sofa In The Lake“.) I call them: Easter Eggs.
No, not the kind that guy sticks in the grass Easter afternoon. This is the nickname I gave for the little extra elements that I occasionally throw into a story, with NO IDEA WHY, just because they look and/or sound cool.
“But Jenn!” I hear you call. “Writers are supposed to have EVERYTHING planned out ahead of time! Every little nuance of the story is supposed to be in the outline! Right?!”
Okay, I’m sure there are some writers out there who that is true for, but I can only go off my own experiences, and let me tell you, I usually have NO IDEA what exactly is going to go into each scene. I get general ideas that have to be fleshed out. And sometimes, when I’m just starting out a story, I’ll throw something in just because it seems like it could make the scene more interesting. But then, like finding an Easter Egg hidden in the grass of my story, that item pops up again later, giving me an idea that ends up tying a huge piece of the story together.
Would you like examples? Here are a few of my favorite ‘Easter Eggs’ that I’ve stuck into my stories and then later discovered were VERY IMPORTANT:
- In 2006, I was writing a very elaborate fanfiction that involved the main character being kidnapped and taken to another dimension (this was actually a precursor to several major ideas behind my current novel-in-progress, Outcasts & Runaways). I gave my cool knight/warrior guy a golden armband with a red gem on it, simply because my brain said, “Man that would look cool.” I didn’t know what it was, so I had the character refuse to tell the main character about it. It ended up being the very device he’d used to cross dimensions, and resulted in a very satisfying and relationship-building blowup between the two later that ended in their having a stronger friendship. So basically: cool-looking accessory became important plot device.
- My short story “Unshoot The Moon”, which I’ll post next week, was an experimental fiction class assignment that hinged ENTIRELY on me writing the opening phrase, “Well it’s not like I was TRYING to shoot the moon.” I literally had to develop the entire story off of that. No spoilers, but it ended up meaning something quite different from the regular usage of that phrase.
- Last month, while writing “The Sofa In The Lake,” I threw the phrase “dust wars” into Part 1. This meant nothing, it just sounded cool. And then the entire story ended up hinging on those Dust Wars being a sort of nanobite apocalypse. MY EASTER EGG LITERALLY BECAME THE CENTRAL CONFLICT OF THE ENTIRE STORY.
You see what I’m saying? Sometimes it’s not only okay, it’s HELPFUL to just toss something interesting into a scene that is otherwise boring you. Whether you put it in there to make a character look cool, give a little dimension to your world setting, or break up an uninteresting conversation, little stuff like that can come back to inspire you later in the story. I especially recommend purposefully doing this if you are writing a short story off of a prompt; when you are creating something on the fly, finding out that you unknowingly gave yourself some extra tool to work with when you get stuck can be extremely rewarding.
So remember, folks: planning is great, but sometimes a little utterly random Easter Egg can really push your story over the hill.
I challenge any writers out there to try this technique in the next couple of weeks: write a random short story, and toss in a few things you have no idea what they’ll be good for. If one of them turns into an Easter Egg, show me your results! I want to see what random inspirations other people get and if this idea works for my fellow writers.
And who knows, maybe I’ll feature the best one here on my blog. But you’ll have to REALLY blow me away. 😉
See you guys in two weeks! And keep keeping an eye out for those opportunities to be a Good Deed Ninja!