As a trained scientist, I consistently struggle with fiction writing and its lack of initial boundary conditions. I’ve sat at my computer for over four hours this weekend, time set aside for writing, and not written a single word I want to keep. There are no rules or limits to what story I can tell. The possibilities are infinite and all mine. This can be exhilarating or completely overwhelming. For a new writer like myself, I’m definitely feeling the latter.
I first tried to work on the novel. The issue I face time and time again with this based-on-a-true-story story is finding the balance between keeping to actual events and creating elements of pure fiction. I am not comfortable telling someone else’s story outright, and I want the freedom to expose truths that make the story interesting in the first place. Because of this, I’ve added characters and storylines that are products of only my imagination. Creating from nothing has slowed progress.
In the interim, I decided to write a story for a Very Short Fiction contest put on by a literary magazine that I’ve submitted to in the past. For this piece, I’m forcing myself to come up with a story that I create from the scrap pile of my imagination, not real life. A common approach taken by inexperienced writers is to draw most material from their own lives – it’s something I do almost entirely. Moving away from this, my relatively inexperienced writer-mind is crippled by the limitless possibility. I’ve gone from diagramming a plot about a homeless man in a city to one about a girl landing in a foreign country and having a life-altering conversation with a man in a bar. Even if I’m lucky to hit on an idea that gets me excited, the challenge that quickly follows is creating a compelling plot to support it.
I understand why some of the best fiction authors the world has read all agree that writing is the best thing you can do for your writing. My brain is not used to creating stories. It’s going to be a long road before I write anything good. Getting there requires experience in thinking through story creation and plot development, finding inspiration and turning it into a story worth telling.
My plan for the short story is to subconsciously find the idea. I need to step away from the computer, get some groceries, vacuum, and carry on with life. The difference though between normal mode and story-writing mode is I allow myself to stay aware and open to inspiration while I’m going about my daily routine. The best-case scenario is that it leads to an idea I can eventually start typing out.
The objective for writing this latest short story is to learn from The Smallest Trout and improve on plot development. It will be posted by Jan. 31st.