Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Finding the Story I Want to Tell

Personally, I've skipped around within the genre.  I've tried my hand with paranormal elements and I've tried both contemporary and historical time periods.  I've written both lighter and darker tones.  Some of these things have worked for me and some I'm still working on.  Some things I've really liked, some I feel haven't fit me very well at all.

As I begin something new, I always stop and step back, try to evaluate where I am in my growth as a writer.  I TRY to be unemotional and rational about how things have gone so far. I try to decide what I've learned.

Some of these lessons have been painful.  I think I'll keep those topics to myself, filed away for later blog posts.

Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised.  Recently, readers have been commenting on my voice. I have a strong narrative voice, they've been saying.  And I've felt more comfortable in my voice lately.  It's a bit gritty, a bit wry, and sometimes even amusing.  (I hope.)

Readers have liked my characters.  That's good news too.  One of my biggest writing challenges has been digging deep into myself to bring truth to characters.  Working on it still, but I know I've come a long way.

But I've tried to figure out what stories I'm trying to tell.  What exactly am I trying to accomplish when I sit down to write?  I usually put external conflicts in my stories.  I like life or death conflicts.  I like it when my characters come close to losing everything and then they figure out what's important, what they can't live without.  I've started to wonder if that's my ulterior motive.  I don't know.

What about you guys?  What is it that you're trying to accomplish when you put pen to paper?  And how does that affect your choices in stories to tell?


21 comments:

TerriOsburn said...

Hellie has been bringing this up lately. She wants to accomplish certain things with her stories. I just never think in those terms. I want to write a good story that will make the reader laugh, sigh, and maybe shed a tear. That's what I've always gotten from reading Romance, that emotional ride with a satisfying sigh at the end.

Maybe it's too simple, but that's all I want. I write simple, angsty contemporary romance and don't think too far beyond that. Maybe I should. There might be something else I'm really good at and I have no idea. LOL!

Sorry for the painful stuff! Right there with you.

MsHellion said...

I'm a believer in theme, but being I wrote basically every English paper I ever wrote with a THEME in mind, it's hard to stop thinking about theme in some regard whenever you're writing. Writing is about persuasion; we're writing romance and trying to persuade the audience that THIS couple is destined to be together and by the end you'll believe they belong together. It's a persuasive argument through and through. But even while you're building the argument, there is usually a center tent pole that holds everything up.

I think I tend to crave ACCEPTANCE and FORGIVENESS most of all. I hope my stories reflect that in some regard somewhere that those ideals are important to me.

I would probably say Terri like RESPONSIBILITY and/or HONESTY as one of her central truths. Her characters step up and accept responsibility for things when people need them. Her characters value TRUTH/HONESTY above nearly all else. These are a reflection of Terri herself, just like ACCEPTANCE and FORGIVENESS are a reflection of myself.

I think it's a matter of figuring out what your reflection is most of all. (Since I think we reflect many, many, many, all things that are valuable and good and maybe bad as well. *LOL*)

TerriOsburn said...

Fine. What she said. ^^^

Marnee Bailey said...

LOL! You guys are funny. :)

Ter - I think writing solely to entertain and want to bring joy is perfect. I think I do that too, to some extent. I've just been wondering lately if there's more there and it would help my writing if I understood what I'm coming to the table with, ya know?

Hells - I always think in theme too. Usually I'm an ACCEPTANCE and FORGIVENESS writer as well. (Such universal and rich themes.) But I've been wondering if those are more character quests. And I'm not sure that's exactly why "I" write, if that makes sense. I'm not sure my purpose for writing is to show that people should accept themselves and forgive themselves and others, though I'm sure that's part of it.

I read romance because I want to see two people choose love and companionship over everything else. In my world, my highest priority is the people I love. I will pretty much do anything for my family and friends. Without those relationships, I'd feel empty.

I think that my stories would benefit from me remembering that. That I read (and love) stories that affirm my own need for connections. The happily ever afters I love are the ones where people find more peace in themselves because of a deeper connection with someone else.

MsHellion said...

Exactly--I love those stories too, the ones most effective at spreading the universal romance theme that we're better people with those we love than without, our lives have deeper meaning in our connections with that someone else.

But as for why I write...it's fun. I have fun spinning dialogue on the page and seeing the scenes in my head. It's the revision, publishing, and trying to get an editor to love me that's not as fun. *LOL* Those are the times I question wanting to do this--when there is a monetary and traditional publisher value associated with being a writer. You're not a real writer if Avon doesn't offer you a 4 book contract.

Di R said...

At first I was going to say 'what Terri said', then Hellion came in with the whole Acceptance/Forgiveness/Truth/Honesty thing and I wanted to say 'what Hellion said'. But Terri beat me to it.
*sigh*
I think that when I'm first trying to get the story out it's more 'get it on the page' later I can see more of a theme, but it's not something I think about while writing-I'm simply trying to keep up with them when they're talking and cajoling and pleading when they're not.

Di

TerriOsburn said...

I think I'm trying to create the reality I wish were real. I write about people I'd like to hang out with or even like to be. Heroes I could fall for and wish would fall for me. I write how it should be, even though there are still tough times for the characters. Because the HEA is only truly satisfying when it has passed through scorching flames and come out full of light and love on the other side.

So that's what I want to accomplish. Create the story, the world, and the people I wish were my reality.

MsHellion said...

I agree, Di, I don't think a lot of writers (especially if they don't have too many manuscripts under their belt) necessarily think in that regard. They're writing a happy story, they want to smile and make others smile--but I think the thing about themes is that you tend to repeat them without realizing it. You *THINK* you're writing a completely different story, but really, if you think about it, the core is the same.

Like with romance, LOVE CONQUERS ALL--isn't that basically true of all romance? Or mystery, THE BAD WILL ALWAYS WILL OUT AND GOOD WILL REIGN--isn't that the purposeful design of most mysteries? When people snipe that romance is all the same--sure, to a degree it's true--it's about LOVE! Same way that mysteries are all the same--you usually know the killer within the first couple of chapters, whether you realize who it is or not. Writers who write these things respect the structure and want to write about a world where love conquers all or the bad guy is put away.

Core themes evolve, or can, I think. When I used to identify my theme, I'd say FORGIVENESS because with the two manuscripts I had, forgiveness seemed to be the central theme, but the last two books are less about forgiveness--though it still factors in--and it's more about acceptance. And now I realize ACCEPTANCE was also a very central theme for the first two books. A lot of this comes out when you're revising or thinking about it in a big picture way.

Just keep writing. I think you'll see a pattern for the stories you're telling.

MsHellion said...

Because the HEA is only truly satisfying when it has passed through scorching flames and come out full of light and love on the other side.

I love this, but it makes me laugh. We only think things are worth having if we really suffered for them. Do you think it comes from childbirth? *LOL*

TerriOsburn said...

I only meant in books, but I suppose there is a thread of truth to that in real life. When things come too easy, we tend to take them for granted. If we've been through hell and back, we tend to appreciate what we have and how far we've come.

I'd love to have something come easy and do my best to appreciate it, but so far that's not how the cookie has crumbled. LOL!

TerriOsburn said...

And for me childbirth was pretty easy.

*ducks flying rum bottles*

Marnee Bailey said...

Hells - I definitely agree that it's fun, the actual writing part. Querying and marketing is the part I don't like. I know it's necessary. But it's not fun. In fact, it feels extra un-fun today.

Di - I wish sometimes during the "just get it out" phase that it was about trying to keep up with them. A lot of times I feel like I'm dragging them kicking and screaming, all the while I'm cajoling. "Please? I promise it won't be so bad if you just tell me what happen next." LOL!!

And Ter, I agree with Hells, I love this, Because the HEA is only truly satisfying when it has passed through scorching flames and come out full of light and love on the other side.

Marnee Bailey said...

And Hells, I think acceptance and forgiveness are similar things, ya know?

Ter, I don't want to hear about easy childbirths. *blows raspberry*

Janga said...

I know I've cited my favorite quotation from Flannery O'Connor before, but it does explain why I write and what I hope to do in my writing. “There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored."

O'Connor points out in the same paragraph that restoration always comes at a price. I want my stories to show both parts of what O'Connor writes about, what I believe is a fundamental truth: redemption is possible, but it is costly.

I'm not sure if I've answered your question, Marnee, or if I'm just rambling on--something I am all too prone to do.

TerriOsburn said...

Ramble away, Janga. You ramble most eloquently.

Blame my mom, Marn. She spit four of us out with little effort. Easy pregnancies too. Mine was great. *ducks again*

So I'm the only invisible, non-dating, chunky girl creating her own fantasy versions of reality? Fine. FINE! Have a higher purpose. Whatever.

Maureen said...

Sorry, I'm late to the discussion. And no, not because I slept in. Got a cold. Blast it.

What is my over-riding theme? Hee, hee. Terri nailed me on this in Orlando. I believe in 2nd chances and I want everyone to believe in them, too. And third chances and fourth chances...that the universe, even if you do have to jump through flaming hoops and walk across fields of lava...wants you to succeed.

Whether that means finding love, earning forgiveness, learning how strong you really are, that needing other people is a GOOD thing... There is always a chance waiting for you.

I believe I keep writing these things...that anything can happen, will happen, and is happening. And isn't it wonderful?

MsHellion said...

Marn, yes, acceptance and redemption are definitely co-conspirators, I think. *LOL* Sometimes I just focus more on one than the other, I think.

Janga, as always you say it best for all of us! :) Redemption, but at great cost. I think that sums us up.

Terri, you're not the only one! There is something to be said about writing what version you want of reality and putting it out for the Universe to create. Just remember--you yourself just told us you expect to suffer greatly for the effort.

Maureen said...

Ah, come on! Pitching is fun! Waxing on with enthusiasm about what I do is fun! Rejection isn't fun, but acceptance? Ah, man...nothing like it! Makes the rest all worth while.

Talk about walking through fire...that is rejection! And what you come out with is worth it all.

Janga...ah! So perfect and says what I want to say with such eloquence!

TerriOsburn said...

I believe I've been through the fire. Heaven knows I've suffered enough. Or so I hope. *sends prayers and hopes and positive vibes out to Universe in all directions*

Rainbows for everyone!

MsHellion said...

*LOL* Pirate.

Maureen said...

And no, I'm not on meds. I'd like to be on some meds...