Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘storytelling

Writers, Choose Your Strategy

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We writers tend to group ourselves into different camps.

Some are seat-of-the-pants writers (also known as “pantsers”). Some are meticulous plotters. Some are half-and-half…and no matter which type of storyteller you are, at some point you realize that your meticulously plotted story has somehow warped itself into an entirely new shape.

It’s for those days I’ve come up with my new saying, which is the title above: Writers, choose your strategy. Learn how to deal with the unexpected. And then take it from there.

Why do I say this?

Well, when your story goes sideways, that can be difficult to deal with. For many writers, writing seems like the one thing we can control in this life; when it, too, shows we can’t, that can be deeply disturbing.

Plus, even when your story is cooperating, there are times in the story where you step away from it and just have to shake your head. The villains are one thing; you expect bad behavior from them. But the moral equivalency, the bad behavior from otherwise good characters, and the rationalization that if they’re otherwise good, this bad behavior can’t be as bad as all that…where does that come from?

Quite simply, it comes from us.

We contain multitudes (hat tip to Walt Whitman). We all have darkness inside us, as well as light. Our characters can’t help but reflect that. And sometimes, the spattering of darkness and light leads us into weird corners…but we have to trust the process, and persevere.

If you’re at a weird place in your story right now, I want you to remember one thing. You may not be able to control what comes out of you, not entirely. But you can choose what to do with it once you have it.

May that bring you comfort, if it’s one of those writing days.

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 16, 2019 at 7:24 am

The Art of the Questioner

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Sometimes, late at night, as I struggle to get words down, I ask myself the following question:

“Why, Barb, are you putting yourself through this?”

I suppose it’s because I feel I must. I enjoy writing, usually, even when it comes slowly and painfully. It keeps me amused, and focused, and allows me to question to my heart’s content.

Lately, I’ve been struggling especially hard because of whatever illness that’s laid me low this time. (I am starting to get a teensy bit better. But I say that while mentally crossing my fingers, as the last time I thought that, I was overly optimistic.) When I can’t concentrate, I can’t tell stories — period, end of discussion.

And when I can’t tell stories, I get completely frustrated, am incredibly hard to live with, and just am a major pain in the caboose.

(Hey, at least I admit it.)

But maybe this is missing the point a little bit. Because my questioning skills — whatever it is that makes me go, “Hm. What would happen if…” and then start writing down whatever comes next — are still there. Waiting for me to get healthy enough so I can use them; waiting for me to realize that even if I can’t write tomorrow, can’t write the day after that, I assuredly will write as soon as I possibly can because that is what’s inside me.

(My late husband taught me that, and he was right. As he usually was, but that’s another story for another day.)

So, maybe along with all the other things that make up my palette of writing skills and abilities, I should admit that the whole idea of questioning — or, as I put it in the title, the art of the questioner — is useful, in and of itself.

Because if you can’t question, you can’t possibly come up with a different scenario. And without different scenarios, you don’t do so well as a writer — especially not as a writer of science fiction and fantasy.

At any rate, the important thing to remember is that if you are having trouble writing today, that doesn’t make you a bad person. (I know that’s blindingly obvious, but it still needed to be said. Bear with me, OK?) Maybe you’re just stressed out. Maybe you’re sick. Maybe you’re exhausted. Maybe you’ve just had it with the world around you, and your body and mind and heart are all shouting, “Enough already!”

But whatever it is, you need to be kind to yourself. Understand that if you can’t write today, you will write tomorrow. And if you still can’t write tomorrow, you will write the day after that.

Because that is how you’re made. And that is what you’re going to do, come Hell or high water or whatever else, because you must do it or you’re not being your best self.

And in the meantime, keep asking questions!

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 10, 2017 at 5:51 am