Sunday, 9 February 2014

HOW I BEGIN A STORY!


All set to go!




The dreaded white space of an empty page!
For me it’s all about starting somewhere and discovering what’s inside my head. Then when I have something to cling onto story wise I go back and build from there. 
Then I fix a point in the story to work towards—character leaving the house; meeting someone—even if I’m not sure where they are going or who they will meet at that point.
That’s the way I do it for I’m not a planner.  I don’t work out every detail of every chapter or scene before writing.  It simply doesn’t work for me.  For others maybe but I like the discovery of the story as I go along.  Even well into the first draft or later I love the surprise of a character entering stage left apparently not summoned by me at all. 
Of course they are. 
They’re sitting there inside my head nice and quiet, maybe having a little snooze, until something in the story shakes them awake.
For instance recently in the middle of a scene in a play the door opened and in walked one of my characters.
They hadn’t come in the wrong door by mistake. They were always meant to come in at that moment only I didn’t realise it in my conscious mind.
Not until the very act of writing the scene.  
They were already in the story but I had only booked them for a few scenes later but low and behold they were having none of that-- they wanted into the action!
This is how it usually works for me.  This is what makes writing and making stories exciting for me.

I’m getting ahead of myself a bit here.  Rewind and pause inside my head to the image of an idea percolating and glimpsed in its unformed form!
It’s then that I write. 
I might have only glimpsed the beginning of something.  A character sitting in a chair by the telephone?  Is he waiting for a call or putting off making one?
Who knows at this stage?!
The one thing I try to do if that is all I’ve got is get the character up and moving to see where he goes.  If nothing happens try something else like the door bell going, or  the telephone ringing, and discovering (like him) who is calling in person or via the phone.
The below is how I started one of my stories.  It is a children’s story which ended up at thirty thousand words.  All the bits and pieces of information in the writing below ended up in the final version.  Some of them entered the story for the first time a lot further on.   Even after writing the ‘lets see where it goes’ section below I didn’t have all the answers only more questions.
I didn’t mind.
I enjoy working out the solutions.
The theory of the section is the dreaded white space!   As said I start my character somewhere, get them moving, in this instance opening the door onto the white space and see what they come across. 
I don’t try to fill in all the space. 
No descriptions at this stage of the hills in the far distance or the rush of traffic or whatever finally makes it into the first draft proper.
I keep it narrow.  Only where my character walks.  Then when I have enough to start the story properly I go back and begin again…

The example below is for a story but works for me whether story or a play.  In a play I might have the characters in a space and get them moving and talking.

COLOURING IN THE WHITE SPACE.
Ordinary beginning!!/character doing something—going somewhere/moving.
Porridge still burning his throat and stomach Mark threw his school bag over his shoulder and headed towards the door.   ‘Coat.’ His gran said.
She held his coat towards him and was ignoring Marks groans when the phone rang and he was saved.  He sneaked out without his coat.   Pulling the door shut behind him, his hand still on the handle, he stopped.
He stared.  He knew his mouth was open for any flies to fly in but he couldn’t help it.
There were no flies about.  There was nothing but…He blinked, then closed his eyes, and counted.   One. Two. Three.  He opened his eyes.   Everything was white.  No, not snow.   White.   Blank.  No path in front of him. No garden gate. No road.  No houses across from his.  No Hills in the far off distance.  Nothing but a white page of nothing.
Okay, he was still asleep, he was dreaming. He pinched himself on the back of his hand.
Ahhh.  If he was dreaming it hurt.  Okay he was ten.  Too old to panic.  Too old to be scared. The door was real wasn’t it?  It wasn’t white. He turned the handle and as he did so it kept on turning, the door not opening, and the more he turned it, faster and faster, it was as if an invisible hand was painting the door…three guesses.  White.  Maybe now he was a wee bit scared. He turned round and faced where the path should have been.  He tapped the ground in front of him with his right toe.  It was solid.  He took one step, then two and as he did so the ground beneath his feet and a metre to his left and right turned shades  of brown and scratches of shiny green.   Wet Grass.
It was like the drawings he used to do when he was at nursery.
He walked on and on and the grass grew under his feet. 
Then he stood on something.
It was a tiny toy Power Ranger.  It was scuffed and worn and its left arm was broken.  It was his.  He’d lost it ages ago.
He placed the toy in his pocket and…It was alive and trying to climb out.  It scratched him and he scrambled to scoop it out and it was no longer a toy but a hamster. 
All  brown and white and big eyes staring up at him.
Hammy.  Hammy had died when Mark was six.
It tickled his hand.
Mark laid the hamster on the ground and watched as it scampered through the wall of white. A moment later a tiny head appeared, two claws scratching at its hamster nose, then it disappeared.  
Mark walked towards where the hamster had disappeared.  Suddenly a puddle appeared under his feet.  It soaked through his new school shoes.
His mum wouldn’t be chuffed.
He thought about it for a moment then he jumped up and down in the puddle.  His shoes were wet anyway.
He splashed and splashed and kicked at the water stopping as it hit something.
A gravestone.

I stopped here and went back to the beginning.  I felt I had enough to start the story proper.
The power ranger and the hamster appeared further into the story.

Main questions:  Why was he in a graveyard?
                          Why didn’t his mum or dad get him ready for school?
I didn’t have the answers to the above yet but enough information to start the story and discover those answers—just like the reader.

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