It’s been over a month since I last posted something here. Mea maxima culpa.
Oddly enough, this has had little effect on site views.
I get ideas for stories all the time. Sometimes a vague outline. Sometimes whole paragraphs. Sometimes nothing more than a few lines of dialogue.
On rare occasions, a story will emerge fully-formed. These last are troublesome, for they will often occur at inopportune times and places, and demand my attention. Such distractions are fortunately rare, but are also fragile and short-lived. If I do not take the time to record the idea, it will bedevil me for a few days before fading slowly out of memory. If I take the time to extract the idea and write it down, it still begins to fade- only faster. I have therefore developed a system for dealing with such “flashes of inspiration” (for lack of a better term).
In lieu of immediately writing down the new idea, I take a few moments to fix as many details as possible in my memory. This helps me keep hold of the idea without causing it to fade away. At irregular intervals, I will write down a few of the detail. By the time the idea is no longer an insistent pressure in my mind, I often have enough in writing and memory to keep the feel of the story idea fresh.
I’ve written before about Dungeons and Dragons. Building and maintaining an interactive universe for myself and my friends to adventure in was just about my only creative outlet for a very long time. Even though I now play at intervals measured in years rather than days, I still create stories and adventures for my friends- one at a time. Whenever possible, this would be done by means of online chat or instant messenger systems. Since the gaming group is essentially scattered about the northern hemisphere at the moment, this has become increasingly impractical.
The difficulties in real-time communication have forced us to fall back on a play-by-mail sort of gaming. I will write a lengthy email to one of my friends with a story of his character’s solo adventures. He will get back to me with his character’s reactions to what I’ve been describing. It isn’t “gaming” in any real sense. It is far more a sort of collaborative story-telling. As Albert once said, “It’s like reading a book, but really slow!”
This system is dependent upon the availability of time on the part of the participants. It takes time to read and reply to stories like this, and sometimes the DM (me, most of the time) has long periods of time when he has no inspiration or any inclination to write.
If writing becomes a chore, it stops being fun. If it isn’t fun, it becomes harder to do. When my friends and I were in High School, there were many ways around this problem. Someone else could run a different game for a while, or we could do something else entirely for a couple of weeks. Then the muse would strike someone again, and we’d be off and running.
Inspiration comes from the oddest places, sometimes. While I was in a waiting room at a doctor’s office, I was forced to endure some execrable “after-school special” starring Lee majors. Dumb story, horrible acting, simplistic resolution- everything I despise about modern television was present in this show. But it generated a kernel of an idea, which became part of the background for my game group’s big reunion game in the late 90’s.
Another odd inspiration can be physical and psychological trauma. A few years ago, I underwent some significant surgery to correct a life-threatening problem. In recovery, while doped to the eyes with a variety of drugs, I dreamed a complete graphic novel- page layout, artwork, dialogue, and everything else. Bits of it are still kicking around in my head to this day. Sadly, I have no way of extracting the images from my head and making it a reality- I cannot draw well enough to do the images any justice, and I don’t know anyone who can draw that would be willing to put up with my fractured telling of the tale.
A few days ago, I was listening to The Mystics Dream, by Loreena McKennitt. Loreena McKennit is one of my favorite artists, and I’ve listened to the song many, many times. For some reason, this time the song fired up the story-telling section of my head. One of the collaborative stories I’d been writing with my friends was stuck- and had been for months. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to describe, but simply couldn’t put the words together. With the song playing on my computer at work, I suddenly knew exactly how to write the next sequence of events. I managed to wait until I got home before I started writing, but it was an effort. I went straight to my computer, put on the headphones, called up the song from the hard drive, and started typing. I was still at it a couple of hours later when my wife made me stop so I could eat dinner.
I have three novels I’ve been working on at intervals for years. Two of them started by random inspiration- a scene formed in my mind, and I was driven to get it written down. The inspiration lasted long enough to get several scenes written for each story, in no particular order and with events widely scattered in the story’s internal chronology. I eventually managed to write outlines of the stories, and even worked out extensive internal histories for both of them. One of them required me to create a new language- something far beyond my ability. I cheated, and restricted myself to a short lexicon of words and phrases. This was hard enough, because I had to create roots of the various words to keep the language internally consistent.
The problem is, I created all of this stuff- internal history, story timeline/outline, language, and several dozen pages of scenes from the story- within the space of three or four months. That was two years ago. I’ve written a few more pages since then, at widely scattered intervals. I re-read what I’ve already done from time to time, trying to re-kindle the inspiration for the stories so I can finish them. They’re still not even close to being done, and it is very tough for me to work on them to any significant degree.
For anyone still reading this, you may take the entirety of this post an a long-winded apology for allowing more than a month to elapse between postings. I can’t promise it won’t happen again, but I will feel bad about it if it does.
Current status- Apologetic
Music- The Night is Still Young, by Billy Joel