I inadvertently tried something new. The last book I wrote began with a concept for a plot that I expanded into a world that held characters. This time around, it seems I began with characters and a world. Since this is a new situation for me, I am in quite a predicament. I have no idea what my capital P Plot will be. I have a couple subplots in mind but not the giant one that is necessary to move the story. I am hoping that by creating dynamic, real characters and building conflict into the world, I will find the plot.
Another brainstorming method I’ve heard for plot building requires research. The idea is to figure out what it is I like about my favorite books, movies, games, etc, then work that essence into a new story. For example, I love The Lord of the Rings. Really love it. So much so that I have a tattoo of the White Tree of Gondor. So what is it about The Lord of the Rings that inspires such fandom in me? Well, there are a lot of possibilities.
Frodo’s story is that of the underdog, average Joe who is given an impossible task and yet never gives up. That’s inspiring. There’s also the theme of loyalty in Sam. He is also average–maybe even bellow average since he’s a Hobbit–but he has uncommon loyalty. He follows his friend on a death mission and helps him even when rejected. This is also inspiring.
I can take one of those concepts and build a plot that carries a similar message. It may not sound original, but most stories are a retelling of another story anyhow. C.S. Lewis said that, “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”
I suppose what this comes down to is that my mission isn’t to find some amazing idea that will change the literary world. My mission is to entertain readers and myself. As long as I find a story I want to tell (and work hard on adding depth) I’m sure my work will be satisfying.
I want to explain why I choose the quote that heads my blog. I believe that most people are afraid to fail. We are made to be this why by the fact that our society raises up success. People are judged and given value based on what they can and cannot do or the things they have or have not accomplished. Most of us want to be successful, so we shoot for a resume filled with stories of our triumphs. However, what society forgets to teach us is that the road to success if paved with failure. We make mistakes in order to learn. A good rule of thumb I recently picked up was to be sure to fail every day. If you fail, it means you put all your effort into trying and that failure will ensure better luck next time.
The thing we must never do is give up. The fear of failure often stops us from trying in the first place. How sad would it be for a talented painter to drop their brush because someone did not like their work? Be sure to encourage those who make mistakes, for they will keep going.
It’s that time of night when I look back at my day and realize I’ve pushed by my brainstorm yet again. I have the basic concept down for a new book, but ahead lies that blank space of world-building. I have a series of roads in front of me and I’m scared to choose one. That’s always been the hardest part of writing for me. Obvious choices are easy to make. Of course the character needs to defeat the antagonist and win his true love, that’s the whole idea! But the small decisions that could go anyway I want are the most daunting because they have the most lasting impact. If I base the government in my book on one idea the consequences will seep into every other piece of the world.
I am an aspiring writer with lots of ideas, which is true of anyone aspiring to do anything. But what I have learned is that iron indeed sharpens iron. So I created this blog to share thoughts on writing, pass around inspiration, and take a look at the stumbling blocks I run into. My hope is that those of you reading will gain something and leave a thought of your own, sort of like a “take-a-penny-leave-a-penny” jar.