Wrapping head rappings

First off: awesome little shout-out over at the latest issue of A Thousand Faces. I’m not in this issue, because I am lazy, but my cake is.

Second: this. I’ve met Kris and Scott on several occasions over the years, and they’re both great guys. I can’t imagine a better scenario than the one they found themselves in this past weekend. One of these days I’ll make the pilgrimage to San Diego, to shuffle and sweat amongst the glorious masses.

Yesterday I called my peeps in Los Angeles, checking on them after the earthquake. As usual, the media hype far outshined the actual event, which lasted a few seconds and succeeded in knocking over an upstairs neighbor’s lamp.

At any rate, friend Alissa is in the process of writing her first screenplay and has expressed some frustration at assembling the assorted scenes together into a cohesive work.

I can completely relate to that difficulty. A lot of times I’ll start with a great scene, or not even a scene, sometimes just a few lines of dialogue between characters. And obviously stories are constructed of such things. But there has to be something to connect the various bits together, to form them into a whole, interesting story, preferably with a character arc, a believable and entertaining plot, and layers of depth to make the story worth reading more than once. The ligaments of a story are as important as anything else, in order to suck the reader along and create some rhythm and flow for the tale.

It’s actually rather difficult for me to offer advice on this, as I haven’t quite tackled it myself. For flash fiction, it’s often done all at once, so it’s not really an issue. My longest published story is less than 10,000 words. For that particular story, I recall it took me weeks of staring and scribbling on a little calendar of events and charted plot points before I finally worked out how everything fit together. Even then, there were twists that occurred in the final paragraphs that surprised even me, requiring some revisions of the earlier material.

And this is probably what’s most intimidating about writing a novel. I get the concepts of novel pacing and more detailed descriptions and so forth. But the actual idea of sitting down to plot out 50+ thousand words worth of closely interconnected scenes is a lot to wrap a brain around. As I understand it, the process becomes easier once you’ve done it once, but that’s little consolation when staring at a blank screen and a 50,000-word goal.