Torturing stories


I don’t write too often about the difficulties presented in writing certain stories. Perhaps there’s a bit of pride involved in not being able to work out certain plot lines. Or organizing the world as it should appear.

I think if I sit at the screen everyday and attempt to work it out, it should work out. That doesn’t happen. There’s not some magical process by which this works out by itself.

I ran across the plot that would not work out. Frustrated, I began working on something else for awhile. There were complications to the plot line. Character A was doing this, while at the same time Institution A looked like that. And Character B was doing this this in response to Character A. And then there are those lesser characters of C, D, E and F who attempt to foil the plans of our anti-protagonist.

Anti-protagonist  the principal character who is not a good guy.

And Institution A meets Institution B, and no they don’t live happily ever after.

Character building is not the problem. The complications of creating an institution that is part of the infrastructure of the real world we know, but twisting it into a perversity… That’s a problem.

How to present an organization of elements is a problem. Once you twist that institution, can you lay it all out there in one big, flat bunch? No.

It must be distributed throughout the story in doses so the reader gets an idea of how it works within the plot. It’s like time-release medicine that at the release times we say, “aaahhhhh…” That’s how it works.

And that Character. Character A, who is not the man of your dreams. He’s the main guy and he’s a baddie. He’s like the bad uncle no one ever talks about. The one we hear families whisper about. He’s our guy, but we don’t sympathize with him. Oh no. It’s hard to even care about him. We kind of wish he would just go away.

He may be the lesser of two evils; regardless, he’s presents a problem, because we always have a good guy. Or, at the very least someone we can sympathize with. Right? Right…?

But not this time.

The story world is only slightly askew. The things we hear rumors about today are blatant here. A conspiracy here, brain washing there. It’s a dismal world—the one we try to avoid thinking about too much in real life. We don’t want to know the guy we vote for is really a puppet for some corporate giant.

It’s the possibility of what we could be. What we could become. The things plotted by only the powerful and that we have nothing to do with, though it has everything to do with us.

It’s a world I don’t want to write about, but must. A compulsion to finish it. That is the problem.

I’ve heard other authors say that when the writing presents this much of a problem you should walk away from it for awhile. Give it some time to ferment. Give it some air.

Maybe that works for some. I think I’ve given this too much time to ferment. It’s beginning to smell rotten. So this is the plan: I will force this story to reveal itself. I will sit here daily, plugging away at the damn thing until it gives me what I need. I will puncture, prod and tear it to shreds until I have exactly what I want.

And if then, I still don’t have the product I need. That world that is supposed to exist in the story dimension, I will exterminate it.

This is the world of a tortured writer. Welcome.


3 thoughts on “Torturing stories

  1. The truth is that we can’t stop even in the midst of this torture. We have to keep going in spite of knowing that what we’re writing amounts to glorified garbage. But we take this stance because we forget that a bad draft or manuscript can be turned into a great one, but there must exist a manuscript first.

    One thing you can do to alleviate some of the pressure is to doodle diagrams, schematics, mind maps and whatever you need to in a piece of paper. Once you see everything laid out in the open, it might be easier to make sense of it.

  2. I think you’re right Joe. I’ve actually started writing bits and pieces of the story on notebook pages and trying to describe to myself through words and images what I want to convey. It’s a slow process. I think the mind map might be helpful though. Thanks.

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