Approaches to Writing

I want to write a number of blog posts about how we might go about plotting this story of Satan’s life as a mere mortal. However, that requires me to explain (to myself, if no one else) what my approach to writing is. This is particularly important because it does stand in stark contrast to how I believe Heide approaches writing.
Heide has told me that she is quite happy to sit down with a story idea and to start writing it out and see where it takes her. Just writing that sentence filled me with an itchy sense of dread. Let me repeat it, she is quite happy to sit down with a story idea and to start writing it out and see where it takes her!
I don’t do that. In some sense, I can’t do that. I have a burning need to know how a story will end even before I start it. I struggle with an organic and whimsical working method. I am a planner and a plotter. I will spend hours with index cards and mind maps and spreadsheets (what do you mean, you don’t use a spreadsheet to plot your stories?) before committing the first word of my story to paper. Everything that finally makes it to page serves the purpose of the story, even if that purpose is ultimately invisible or lost.
Heide’s writing style is like a garden plant on a trellis, growing, splitting, sprawling and, with sufficient care and attention, flowering into something beautiful. My writing style wishes to build a Reich that will last for a thousand years.
Heide’s writing style
– Picture copyright: Joe Mabel
My writing style
(not my political leanings!)
– Picture copyright: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2004-0312-507 / CC-BY-SA
I think one of the beautiful challenges of this collaborative writing project is seeing how we can marry our two writing styles together. In the end, we are going to have to do some plotting and planning. Even at its most simple, we can’t divide this thing up without saying “you write this bit and I’ll write that” and we can’t do that unless we know what “this bit” and “that” are. The question we have to address is which bits we plan and in what level of detail.
So here, for discussion, are the possible elements we can plan in advance:
·         The central characters  (their personalities, potted biographies, the details of their private and public lives)
·         Other characters (those that will play a significant or recurring role in the narrative)
·         The broad setting (Heide have already discussed placing the earthly action in Sutton Coldfield, a West Midlands town we both know)
·         Specific locations (or, for want of a better word, the sets. The homes, haunts and workplaces of the central characters)
·         The arc story (whether this is a true arc story or just a framing device for the smaller stories we wish to tell, the great background story detailing Satan’s removal from power and its ultimate repercussions)
·         Sub-plots (or, if we take an episodic approach to this, as one might with a sitcom or TV series, then the plots of the individual ‘episodes’)
·         The ‘beats’ of the overall story (When does Satan reject the offer to return to hell? When do Ben and Nerys first discover that Mr Clovenhoof is Satan? When does Aunt Molly’s psychotic Yorkshire Terrier reveal itself to be the demon Beelzebub in disguise? Which ‘episodes’ do these occur in?)
·         Individual scenes within each of the plots / sub-plots
·         The mood or atmosphere we wish to create in this piece of writing. This could extend to the social, political, philosophical or even theological agenda we wish to share through our writing!
Posted in 2011, Writing Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
One comment on “Approaches to Writing
  1. Heide says:

    This amount of planning is very new to me, but it's been so much fun that I haven't found it as painful as I always imagined it would be. I do draw the line at spreadsheets though.