Yep, it’s the beginning that was flawed, I see that now. In my Last Post, I talked about my stories never ending neatly and I figured out that if the beginning isn’t good, the ending won’t be either.
So, how can I be certain that the beginning is flawed? Because I cheated again…
Again, check This Post if you want to know more, but, I have done this before, I skipped essential parts of the story because I wanted to finish quickly; meaning I neglected to explore all the characters. There’s one character, for instance, that’s part of the backstory and is a complete mystery to me. His only purpose is to instigate conflict, and because he was a minor character in the backstory I didn’t think he was essential, turns out, every character is essential… In my vision, he was inconsequential, but considering how hard I’m struggling with the ending, perhaps he has a bigger part to play than I first imagined?
He would turn out to be…
But, I couldn’t face reality… going back and changing parts of the backstory would means I would have to make major changes to the main story as well. In fact, I was so deep in denial that I convinced myself that all I had to do to fix things was to make the story longer… It will fix itself, right?
I even went so far as to make an epilogue or a prologue just to make sense; without having to put any effort into working it in organically into the tale. That’s cheating. The job of an author is to convey the necessary information within the format of the story, if I can’t do that, I should quit writing.
I think a good point of measure if something is missing in your story is when the purpose of the main character is simply to reveal the backstory and be the eyes of the reader. My main character had no stakes in what’s happening, he doesn’t change as the story progress. The plot doesn’t affect him and he doesn’t affect the plot. A pointless story.
I have to seriously review how I come up with my tales…
When I write a story, the important thing isn’t in what order I place the scenes or to create a structure, the most important thing is to find the characters and their motivations. This means you’ll write very generally at first, for instance: When John came to his foster parents he was very sad.
This is a general sentence which can be explored more deeply, but right now, this is enough. But at a certain point, when you’ve come far enough into your story, you’ll need to know more about your characters to make sense of their actions later. This means you are forced to explore your characters’ feelings, for instance: It was quite in the car. Trees swooshed past them as he stared out the window, trying to make sense of everything that had happened to him. He wondered if his parents had always hated each other, or if it was just when he was born. His teacher had once told him that children came about from parents’ act of love… Did that apply to him?
(Of course this paragraph can be further refined but that is not our purpose at this point. Editing sentence to sound beautiful you should do last.)
With this, you learn so much more about the character which means his motivations become more apparent later on. This is the stage I often fail to go back to, thinking I don’t need to and just want to carry on with my story. But this is cheating, and the only one you cheat is yourself.
Hopefully, I’ll be better at catching those mistakes early and swallow my pride. My aim is to write as many stories as I can in my lifetime, but not at the cost of quality, or rather, the truthfulness of the tale.
I don’t want to lie.
It is comforting when I come to these realisations because it means I’m improving and is one step closer in becoming the writer I want to be.
I feel the need to be a bit more clear after my last post. All the things I said stands but I wrote it more for me so I’m not sure the point I made was clear.
I tried to cheat. I took a shortcut, and my story suffered because of it.
The reason my story “failed” was because I didn’t want to make the effort, the effort to look deeply enough into the story as was necessary. To work on the backstory is the most important thing a writer does. It creates a foundation where the rest is built upon. It also give reason for the story’s existence. What happened in the past that led up to where they are now? This question is essential and without it, the story is shallow and you can feel that something is wrong.
I always look to streamline my process, but I think this is flawed thinking when it comes to writing, at least for my style where I depend a lot on intuition in directing my stories. I don’t like planning and I rather write in the moment because that is what I find fun doing.
Sometimes you need to dig deep, find the characters, and do more pre-writing than you hoped to do. You cannot skip this, especially when the characters’ motivations are shallow or unclear. A characters’ actions are like dominos and if one domino is missing, the rest won’t fall and the ending will suffer.
Did I just make a blog post telling you to give up when it gets hard? No! Sometimes stories are hard; some are easier than others but they can all be something. I’m just lazy. Buckle down and make it work, you bum!
Do what’s fun. You have nobody to answer for but yourself. You are not obligated to please anyone. Do whatever you feel like, nobody is stopping you but yourself. Take a break, start a new tale, finish an old, whatever. Total freedom!
Don’t forget that emotions are everything. If you don’t feel, the reader won’t feel. Become the character, live the scene. That is how a great story is made.
Time flows differently for writers. The moment is now. You are always writing in the present even if it’s the future or the past in the eyes of the characters and the readers.
Sometimes, when you write, you’ll come across failures, at least, if you are willing to explore. The plot will drive you forward, and as you go on, you will make up reasons to why things are happening, but sometimes, there’s will be a nagging feeling that something isn’t right; that no matter how much you try, you can’t salvage this story.
Yet, you continue on, hoping, that the solution will present itself eventually. But stories aren’t problems to be solved, they simply are, or aren’t. If there’s nothing of substance from the beginning, there won’t be any further down the line. When that happens, you’ll have to let go. I set a deadline on myself for my short stories, no more than a month. It has now been a month and I’m back where I started. The first chapter doesn’t make sense and the first chapter is everything. It is the foundation of your story; it is the one that will hold you on the right course throughout the rest of the tale. If the first chapter is solid, the ending will be too.
To reach a good foundation the backstory needs to make sense, but you cannot always find the backstory without doing a bit of drafting, and this is where the problem lay. You’ll fall in love with what you have written and you will be reluctant to let go and you’ll try everything to make it part of your tale, but it isn’t happening. You are corrupting your story, Frankensteining it with bit and pieces that shouldn’t be there, that isn’t true to the tale, and after while, it’s none redeemable and you’ll have to let go.
When the story has left your mind, it’s shackles broken, perhaps, you’ll recall a particularly good part of this tale and it will inspire you to make a brand new one! – someday… A better one, and do things right.
© Christopher Stamfors