Thinking about stories

I think about things all the time. I used to write them down more, years ago. There's that song by 21 Pilots that goes “I've been thinking too much, help me”. That's so true. My husband doesn't understand how someone can think too much. His brain is a really different sort of place then mine is.

Anyway, these are thoughts, and don't feel like you have to read them…!

I've been thinking about story lines. In the past, maybe eight years ago, I started writing some kids’ books, but never really knew where to go after the first third of the story. I think there were a couple of things going on there (including a lack of deadlines and a lack of confidence). But there is also the part where making decisions is hard. When you decide one thing, it eliminates many other things (can we call it a sort of opportunity cost?) and what if it's not the best decision?

So there's the paralysis of not wanting to settle on a decision because that particular decision might not be great. If there are no deadlines, I could just wallow in a sea of indecision indefinitely. A deadline forces me to make a decision (or 200) and not have the time to freak out about how that decision could have been so much better if I had just chosen differently.

I have completed one long story in my life, and I'm still surprised that it managed to get to an end. The original idea came when I couldn't sleep in the middle of the night (I think the baby was in the mood for endless milk). The idea was actually really simple, and I thought the story would be really short, maybe a couple thousand words. But it kept growing and complicating itself along the way. But it helped that at least I knew where it should have been going. There was an ending to aim for.

Now I'm thinking of how I want the story for the reverse fest will go. Truly, I already know what I want. But the deadline is far away, so it's easy to find fault with those ideas.

What I want is rather simple and trope-y and has been done a zillion times before. I know it has, because I've read a zillion stories before. But I want the story to do all my favorite things that a Merlin story should do.

But then I hear ideas from other people, or learn the picture is inspired by a movie, and then I start thinking it needs to be more complicated. Then the little critical voice in my head says, “you need to try to think of something different, something non-trope-y, something clever and not over-done".

But no. That way lies madness. It really does. The critical voice is not a good guide. Probably Kilgharrah-esque levels of bad guidance.

For the long story I finished, the idea was simple. Along the way details and complications naturally came and added to the story. I need to convince myself that that will happen again, that I can start with a simple idea and along the way enough details and complications will arise to hold the story together and make it interesting.

When I start trying to make a whole complicated story world before ever starting to write, I get lost and can't do it. And it doesn't seem fun. So I'm going to go with what seems fun. This isn't fancy literature or anything. It's for fun.

Of course, by writing the kind of story that you love, it kind of bares your soul and lets everybody know that it's what you like, which seems revealing in an uncomfortable way. Now, even things like bookmarking a story on a public website is a clue to what someone likes, but it wouldn't be quite as revealing as actually writing something.

I've written some things that, oh wow, they excite me, but do I really want someone else to know that that is the case? Kind of? Maybe?

Like the whole concept of beating up on favorite characters. Why on earth is that so delightful? Can you imagine having a conversation with your mom or grandma or someone, and saying “oh, yes, I am so thrilled when they did this and this and this awful thing to the character…. Mutilation? Starvation? Emotional pain? Torture? Sexual abuse? Bring it on!”

I spend time thinking about why those kinds of things would be exciting to read about anyway? I imagine it has to do with identifying with the character, and then perhaps they get rescued and it gives the other characters the chance to express their love/concern? And if you identify with the character, you experience that emotion vicariously?

I certainly am not thrilled with the stories that don't have the other character(s) to care for the one who is hurting. A fic where it all goes wrong with no good at all, no one to save the unlucky protagonist, isn't nice really.

So I guess I think I like it because I identify with the character who then gets love and attention, who is special, etc. But to admit that you like that is then a kind of admission that you want love and attention and want to be special.

Now why would that be such an embarrassing thing? Isn't that all part of human nature? Hmm.


Back to the story plans. I really want it to be a simple plot and then just beat up on my character a lot. Now, you'd have to be careful to make it not seem like you're beating up on the character just for the sake of beating up on the character. It would have to fit into the frame of the story realistically, or it would lose its emotional impact. (Ha ha, look at me daydreaming about writing something with an emotional impact.)

I really think it would be a balancing act to get right. Some stories are less interesting to me because there's not enough attempt for emotional reactions. And some stories try too hard and it's unrealistic, so it doesn't work too well.

I wonder how you learn to figure out the right balance? Practice and feedback, I suppose. But—

I've been pleasantly surprised to find out that I actually like reading what I've written. Before I tried writing I didn't think that would necessarily be the case. Lots of times when I read stories I love, I think, “I could never write this.” Which is true. I couldn't have written that particular story. But it would be faulty logic to go on and say that I only love stories that I wouldn't be able to write. I can also love stories that I do manage to write. Isn't that why I started writing? Because I was frustrated that the stories almost never quite went the way I wanted them to go? Because everyone had different things that excite them, so if you want a story with just what you like, why not write it yourself?

So. I think it's a matter of not worrying about making the story sophisticated or thought-provoking or anything like that. I think it's a matter of writing something that when I read it, I enjoy it. Fill out up with wish fulfillment, fantasies, etc. The worst part will be that people could read it and know what those fantasies are. It's like being naked. But is there anything actually horrible about being naked?

I guess people could see your flaws and make comments. But anything worse? Probably not?

It's probably going to be a big emotional battle between the different parts of me, the embarrassed parts, the excited parts, the longing for love and attention parts. It might be interesting to see how it goes.

One other problem with starting to write stories for a fandom that is older and already has a zillion stories written in it…. There are lots of lovely basic plotlines that have been thoroughly written. But maybe I still want to write them, because I haven't yet? As a reader I love to go back to some of the old classics, the good old-fashioned beat-up-on-the-favorite-character stories. They're often simple, not complex or thought-provoking. Just straight fun (if torture and pain and calamity can be fun).

So this is all a big pep talk to tell myself to not care what anybody what thinks. Of course, I have an artist to consider, but she's already said I can go with what I want to. And somehow I suspect that one I get going, it won't turn out as simple as I thought. I mean, look at this blog post…. I think too much, and it shows.

So tonight! Writing! Self-indulgent, make myself happy, not care about what anybody else thinks writing!

Unless I just go to sleep. Ah, sleep!

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Writing is like driving a car on ice. It's really hard to get it going, but once you're going it's really hard to stop.

Which makes it hard when real life interrupts frequently, which it often does.

One of these days this insane winter will go away, and all my metaphors (and scenes in stories) won't be about snow...

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