Friday, August 13, 2010

The Proverbial Stack

Mainly due to my experience as a Computer Science major while writing, I have come upon the notion of The Stack.

The Stack is a LIFO structure. Last-in, First-out. Think of a stack of plates. The first plate goes onto the counter (or whatever), and the last plate is at the top. Thus LIFO.

Although there is not really any wrong way to approach the creation of a story, without a proper understanding of plot and story elements as well as good prose, the opportunity to create a masterpiece gets flattened by the hammer of publishers (if that is what you are looking for). Basically, if you want the character to develop well, and events to follow a logical, well-received structure, the story may seem dry, calculated, or just terrible without a fluid, near-seamless orientation of the story elements.

In writing my first major story, Hero's Genesis, part of The Heritage Series, I have run into so many problems, much like a crash-test dummy in an experimental car in the midst of the planning and performance stages. My best friend had only read the first 50 pages of that draft, and when he read more than that in draft 3, his comments were unsurprising, but solid nonetheless.

By this time, about a month or so ago, I had already put Hero's Genesis on hiatus and began working on other pieces. I never thought that I would write other things while working on my first story, thought I could keep going, improving, editing and revising, until I would submit my manuscript to agents and publishers. Yet, it didn't happen that way, and that's because my mind subconsciously wanted me to try something new, and so I did. I was bogged down by, what I thought were concrete plot arcs and story lines, and so that limited how well my craft could improve. The writing, as my best friend had told me, as well as "friends" on, that I have a polished writing, that it flows and it's good. However, the word calculated was brought up, meaning that although the writing was better, the original plot (draft 3 took a very different approach to beginning the story) caught his attention and made him invest his emotions much more than draft 3.

The problem that I had, and still do sometimes, is making an outline for a story way before I have the story even partially written. This means that I think that I already know my characters, and how the story will develop. I had certainly planned out Draft 1, but it was an interesting plot, and it was possibly the way I approached the scenes that made it as good as it was for a beginner. By the time I had written part of Draft 3, though things had changed, it was extremely calculated, and the personalities didn't jump out as much because I was so focused on allowing the story to flow and move.

The two most recent stories, one of which I am currently working on as my main project, have started no where similar to The Heritage Series. In fact, it has started much like what I have written for book 2 of that series--where I just began writing and even if I had an outline, I wouldn't necessarily stick to it, letting the story grow and the character make his own decisions.

Who Says? began with me knowing nothing of the story, other than it being a Detective/Mystery novel. And because of that, I have created some intense and amazing characters, as well as a potentially complicated, yet interesting plot. For reasons I won't list, I have put this story on hold, but I am very much excited to work on it more.

The Defender, what I am working on now, I almost scrapped within the first half-page. The opening, a fight in the street (alleyway) in Minneapolis, drew me in and the story grew so fast and my mind, like it had with Who Says? branched out and gave me things to work with without me having to plan it all out and make it appear stale.

The morals of this blog post are that extremes in writing are hardly ever good things and that the juggling, storing, and interpolation of plot elements will provide you almost infinite possibilities to create a fantastic story. You don't want to create an entire outline for a story if you are new to creative writing, but you also don't want to know absolutely nothing and write and write without getting anywhere and making an incoherent plot. If you start out with interesting characters, even if you don't know them quite yet, and you know the kind of story you want to write (e.g. action, adventure, romance, fantasy, western), then let your mind do the catching up with you as you go. Lately, that seems to be the best route for me because I still see my story as ever changing, growing and getting better and deeper with each chapter. Outlines are fine and dandy, but they aren't meant to grow with you, so you shouldn't make them too strict or tight. Remember, you need breathing room in writing, just like you do with leather pants.

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