Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What Makes a Story A Story?

You'd think after taking a class I'd have that question more sorted out, but I really don't. In part, I think all writers struggle with finding the story, it's all part of the craft. But I can't seem to see when I don't have it. I'm not sure I've really found it yet for any story...

The trouble is, I don't like conflict. I really don't. So the bits of the stories I'm drawn to, that my mind seems to easily come up with is the... back story.. The bit that happens when things aren't interesting. Just everyday kinda life stuff.

I keep finding characters I like, bits and pieces of stories, but I don't know where to take them. I know something is missing, and I can't seem to figure out what it is/how to fix is.

One thing I've not yet tried since the course is just blurting it all out on the page. I want to try that. And soon. Just write everything I can about the characters, the scenes that speak to me, and see if somewhere in it all a story presents itself.

Our teacher told us that the story begins when the status quo is challenged, that's the crux of things. But it's tension and conflict, overcoming obstacles, that's the story, that's what makes a story as opposed to a pleasant anecdote.

Part of my trouble is, of course, is that I love pleasant anecdotes. That's what I've spent my life telling myself when my life isn't what I'd wish. Or when my life was too full and I needed to to drift off to sleep. I'd escape to another world, be another person, live another life. I wouldn't go have adventures, so much as I'd go have romances. Gods, that's embarrassing to admit! But I guess, for most of my life, that's the bit that was most glaringly missing. We didn't have conflict/trouble/adventure to pull us together, but rather time. A slow, true deepening of trust, knowledge, etc. Or sometimes they'd just be hot flings. Much more like life than any story.

All this leaves me wondering if I'm capable of writing stories at all. It's the conflict, the tension, where it all seems to fall apart for me. *sigh*

Maybe I just need to keep writing. Maybe I just need the courage to allow myself to try, and fail. It's okay to fail, as long as you keep trying, as long as you keep writing. If Alice Munro (who is apparently amazing) has false starts, and takes many wrong paths before she gets to where she knows what she wants a story to be, then it's perfectly natural for the same thing to happen to me, a novice.

I just have to learn to let go. To just write, without expectation. To just see. To not feel the effort wasted if the story doesn't come immediately. *sigh*

So where do I get all this courage?

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