Anatomy of a Story Part 4: complications and getting stuck

A short disclaimer here–I’m completely jumping the gun on this because A Murmuration of Starlings probably won’t come out until next year. BUT, like I said in the beginning, it’s fresh in my head and I want to lay it out before I’ve moved on to the next five things.

And I like going in depth on the story building process. Reading through my sentences and paragraphs I can tell the different stages it was in and what was going on in my head while I was writing it. And rewriting it. And rewriting it. And don’t forget editing…

So over the next few days, in my head I’m working out the scenario. I envision Cassie seeing a monster take form in those masses of birds and then people start disappearing around the neighborhood.  Borrowing again from that particular neighborhood, there are walking trails nearby and people are always running, biking, skateboarding and so on.  Easy enough to have a couple of disappearances happen.

My imagination comes up with a question: what happens to the bodies? Does someone find them or are they just gone? Good question, says I. We mull that over and finally decide after a couple of searches the bodies all end up in a remote end of the field. Partially hidden they are mangled and in a bad way.

Which leads to major police investigations and things escalating.

Cassie starts confessing about seeing a monster in the birds. Allen and Tom try to draw her out, but all she can do is refer to it as this dark thing she sees in the birds. She doesn’t know why it’s here or what it wants, but she doesn’t want to go outside.

Allen and Tom can’t decide if she saw “someone” or if it’s just her imagination, but they get worried as someone else disappears.

AND, that’s where I get stuck. I sit for a good two more days. I can’t decide the angle on the “monster.” What is it? Why is it there? What are its goals? Why did it show itself to Cassie? Is she on the “list?” How are they going to deal with it? How is the story going to escalate?

Oh, yeah, and how is Adel going to come into play on this?

Crap, I think. That’s a lot of problems to work out and nothing was coming. In fact it was bugging me because sometimes you get a great story starter, but you can’t seem to shape it up. You start with more questions than answers and you bog down in it.

Yeah. So I let it sit for a few days. I keep working the angles, but I don’t get very far.

However, over the years, I’ve learned to walk away and let my imagination work on some of these things. I knew I had a good premise, great characters and the starlings, but I just couldn’t get a handle on the rest of it. I know from past experience I can count on my imagination to keep at it even while I’m doing mundane day-to-day things. I let go of the reins on the story and said, “Imagination, my friend, I need some help on this one.”

And my imagination took it as a challenge and went to work….

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