Saturday, February 27, 2010

Developing Our Story

Okay, y’all know I don’t usually post a video. But this one, if you’re a writer, will put a smile on your face if you have the time (1:58 length) :

The video features an editor trying to get a writer to change his manuscript—and coming up with confusing and bizarre storylines for the author to develop. The hapless writer is trying to make connections between his plot and the outlandish ideas the editor is dreaming up.

I’ve never had an editor act this way, of course—they’re always super-professional and give helpful suggestions. But I frequently go through a similar process myself (although it doesn’t usually involve sharks, pebbles, or killing my protagonist in the first chapter.)

I do go through a “what-if” process of story development. I think most writers do, actually. Because our stories can take dramatically different turns with each scenario we’re considering.

I’ll usually think about it on the go—while running errands, or getting ready for the day. “What if Jenna were the victim and not Paul? Then that would mean that Clarice has more of a motive and opportunity. And Clarice is a stronger character than Jenna…Jenna is a better dead body. And then what if…?”

Even relatively minor shifts—maybe the protagonist’s occupation—can have a big impact on the story.

When you’re going through the what-if process, how do you decide which direction to go in? Do you write all the options down and weigh them? Do you let your characters determine story direction? Do you look at what sounds like the most fun to write?