Happy November…

I thought I’d get off of the publishing front for a bit. I’ve got a bunch of stories submitted and a novel, but am in that flux period where everything is out in the ether.

So let’s get back to writing in general. Another exercise worth exploring is dissecting your own story process. Take one of your stories–preferably something recently written.

While it’s fresh in your mind, go back through it and write down the details: where the idea came from, what excited you about the idea, and how it unfolded. Write down as many details as you can about how it all came together.

I’m not meaning for this to be your template for the next story, but it might give you some insight as to how your mind works and how you process your ideas.

I published a story with Jazz House Publishing called Traditions. It was based around Christmas and the story came to me after watching too many horror movies involving families and parents who never seem to pay any attention to their kids.

It ticked me off. Being a parent, I remember, especially when our boy was younger, we always knew where he was. Oh sure, he hung out over at friend’s houses and I’m sure we don’t know half of the stuff he’s done, but too many times in horror movies parents seem oblivious, careless or just plain don’t have a clue what their kids are doing while monsters and supernatural phenomenon run amok.

Yeah.

So I wanted to write a story about a family who actually did keep track of their kids when all hell is breaking loose. I remember picking Alaska as a setting. While I’ve never been there, I’ve read a lot about Alaska and for this story did a lot of research on my city setting, the surrounding areas and even legends of strange creatures in Alaska.

This provided the background. Next I decided, since it was centered on Christmas, a need and a reason to go out into the wilderness. Ta-da: the family goes out each year to find a tree for the holidays. It provides a good setting for them to run into something weird and paranormal. In this case, a monster.

I fleshed out the characters, deciding on ages for the kids, mom and dad temperaments, and so on. Then my monster: something creepy and with enough animal characteristics as well as that of a predator, and then let them all run loose.

The overriding theme, which was intentional for this one, was parents keeping track of their kids. I don’t usually have a conscious theme or something to say, but for this story it was important for me to push this idea that not all parents are unobservant, narcissistic nincompoops.

It took me a couple of days to get the bones down and then after a wait period, go back in and tweak it. I adjusted character reactions to fit with the situation, paced the action and read through the entire thing many times to measure the flow of the story.

But the end goal was to put a family in jeopardy and then let them figure a way out of their predicament without letting their kids wander off and become monster food.

Going back through it now, I see where the theme guided the story. I had the kids doing their usual kid things while mom and dad reigned them back in. It was a fun story to write and I am still very happy with final draft.

The process of looking at how your stories unfold, at least for me, helps me look at the overall process. The value is in seeing how your mind works–for future situations I think it has helped me “know” when I’m on the right track with a story, but also when I’m off the rails or going down roads I shouldn’t be with characters.

As I said, I don’t see it as building my template, but giving me another window into my own elusive creative process.

Alright–get back to your own writing and go enjoy before holiday madness gets into full swing.

Craig

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