Monday, September 7, 2009

Avoiding Stale Plots

“View procrastinating simply as part of your creative process. That you're not really avoiding writing so much as thinking about it, shaping it in your head, crystalizing it, before you actually sit down to do it.” -- Michael Geffner in Advice of the Day: Procrastination.
I procrastinate -- er, think -- a lot, maybe too much. Depending on the story idea, I do find it better to let the idea percolate for a while before I start writing. Usually, the purpose of this is to formulate different possibilities for the character’s struggle. It’s been said that all the possible story plots have been written about already, so the job of the writer is to come up with a new slant on an old idea. Sometimes I find this hard and give up. Sometimes an idea forms that meets the requirement of freshness. Sometimes I write the stale story plot and look for clues that point to a different direction for the tale.

I mentioned a while back that I participated in a 24-hour writing contest. One of the things the judges pointed out regarding the entries was the number of stories that used old, or obvious, plot lines with nothing new to offer the reader. So it’s not just me. Every writer appears to struggle with this. Someone (I can't remember who) proposed a way to deal with this situation. Take an initial idea and ask questions.

Idea: A nurse walks out of a hospital.
Question 1: Where is she going?
Question 2: Why?
Question 3: Is she meeting someone? Who?
Question 4: Why is this person important?
Question 5: What does she plan to do when she gets there?

Write ten answers to each question and cross them out. Those are the answers everyone comes up with. Now come up with other ideas. Maybe ten is too many, but you get the idea.

How about you? How do you approach a trite idea to make it fresh and interesting?

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