I have an entire folder on my computer filled with story fragments. Every time I start a story and can’t finish it, that folder gets another entry. I’m certain all writers have something like that. With today’s technology it’s easy to keep all those stillborn literary children, hoping that someday in the future they can be brought to life.
Today, I reviewed the pile. Oh, I corrected some typing errors. I added a sentence or two. I thought about how to use the words. The end result was zip, de nada, nothing.
Here’s an example:
“So you want him to confess. What do you want him to confess to?”
Yep that’s it. I like it. There’s tension in that single line and a hook. Who is talking? What is the answer to the question? What will the outcome be? Yet it remains just a single line.
I’ve had this single line for a decade now, without ever turning it into a story. Part of the reason is that I write other stories. Right now I have three short stories on the go, as well as a novel. I’ll finish those short stories although one keeps trying to turn into a novella.
What’s the difference? It lies in how my mind makes stories. Now some fly by the seat of the pants and some plot out their story. I used to fly until my story ended up with the hero, alone, broke, without any memory, stuck in a park while the police and the bad guys hunted him down. Thirty thousand words and my only solution was to have him fall out of bed and wake up. (No. I didn’t.)
A successful story needs a plot from opening to final conclusion. It also needs an emotional flow to carry the reader along. When I can see the plot and the emotional element then writing the story is a blissful experience. When I can punch out a plot and define the emotional flow, I can hammer out the story. Otherwise I just look at the words and say ‘What’s next?’
Some of these fragments are ideas. Some are descriptions. Some are character sketches. At times I consider pulling a couple of fragments, chop them up and put them in the blender to create a new mash up. That doesn’t solve the problem of the missing components.
So, don’t tell me your great idea for a story, play, screen play, novel or picture book. I have my own idea pile waiting for me to strike the right spark to set one on fire.
To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net