Sunday, July 11, 2010

It's only a model

I am one of those writers who is guilty of writing "idea fiction." Rather than a place, a person, or a thing, an idea--a metaphor for some concept important to my sense of the world or of life--pops into my head. I have written many stories based on thoughts like, "Isn't it weird that...?" or, "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" rather than concrete plots or people.

This is probably the worst way to write fiction. The ideas seem so cool inside my head, but on paper they're plain awful. I think this springs from the fact that stories need grit, or simply, a sense of reality, to be successful. Allegories lose their instructional or sensational power if the characters involved are not meaningful in and of themselves. In other words, when you can see through the metaphor, it's no longer a real story; you may as well be writing a two line maxim, or maybe a short piece of verse.

But there is hope for my detestable inspirational state. The other day I read a great essay called, "How to Plot a Story When You See It" by Thomas H. Uzzell, and quickly set to using his advice to turn my fantastical ideas into solid, secondary-world fiction. In short, Uzzell's advice is: "Ask yourself, how will this idea appeal to the audience?" My first attempt, a grand allegory on the theme of childhood and sense of magic, failed spectacularly--probably because I did not follow through on Uzzell's advice, and the story consequently appeared as a wishy-washy myth-type rather than a real piece of fiction. But I've got a second piece I'm working on now, fleshing out how to turn the ideological into the human, and with any luck, I'll be able to turn my story model into a real plot that can suck in a reader or two--or an editor, of course!

-bn

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