Coming up with story ideas isn’t terribly hard. I have my list of story titles that often provides inspiration, and other times ideas spring from things I’m reading, or maybe a movie, and sometimes they just come out of nowhere. I don’t think I’ll ever have a shortage of story prompts, of which my only worry is that I’ll never get a chance to try to write them all.

But that’s where the difficulty lies for me. I can formulate the ideas, visualize them in my mind, see the characters, the settings, even the basic story or plot line, but then I have to get it out of my head and onto the paper. The problem I run into is trying to make my words match the visual in my head, and if I can’t sync that up I can’t move forward.

It’s sort of like the words and the visual are cogs that need to be fixed on the same rotation so the teeth all mesh and the creative machine can start producing. If they don’t line up properly, then the machine won’t run. There’s just this “whirring” sound and bits of debris litter the floor of my subconscious. It ain’t pretty and results stories being shelved indefinitely until I can get new parts from the wholesaler.

Okay, so that was a bit over-dramatic, but you get my meaning. I don’t think of it as the dreaded “Writer’s Block,” but I think it’s probably along the same lines. To me, WB is when nothing is working…no ideas, no characters, no creativity, and it applies to both fiction and non-fiction. It’s when you stare at the blank page (or empty screen) and there’s just…nothing. What I run into isn’t a lack of ideas or creativity, it’s simply that syncing of the mechanisms. All the parts and pieces are there, everything is primed and ready to run, I just have to find that missing something that ties it all together.

More often than not, it’s the narrative voice. Just putting the words on paper works for a short while, but if the voice isn’t working for me, then I run out of steam after a couple of paragraphs (or pages). It’s happened to me on more than one occasion. The great idea is there, the plot rolls out before me like a smooth stretch of road, the characters are vivid in my mind, but the voice, that damned narrative voice, just isn’t speaking to me. So I put the story away, pulling it out every now and then to mull over and brood.

But I never give up on them…not a single unfinished story is forgotten. They lay in wait for that moment when I shout, “Eureka!” and the cogs fall into place. That elusive narrative voice finally comes to the fore and I can dive in to my story head first. It’s a great feeling when that happens.

RB


Old School Storytelling, Part 1

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