“Writing is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Yes, I totally cribbed that from Forrest Gump. Not sorry about it either. Actually, I think it’s dead accurate. I can tell you from experience that just because you sit your butt down in a chair to write on a work-in-progress, that doesn’t mean that’s what you’re going to work on. Half the time I sit down I have a general idea of what I want to write about, and I end up going some place completely different. The story takes over and does what it wants, which isn’t always what I want it to be. What I have discovered when this happens is that resistance is futile. The story will fight tooth and nail until it gets its way. Characters, too. For instance, a current story idea I am working on involves a half-elf, and he won’t shut up. But when I try to sit down to work on his story, I get nothing. Stupid half-elf.
Sometimes you have to fight for every word. Like trying to pull a thin sliver of a splinter out of your hand, pulling words out of thin air can be difficult, slippery, and painful. I should know. That’s how the half-elf came into my life in the first place. I had sat down to work on an idea I’d had during an exercise in a workshop and suddenly I was fighting, almost strangling my brain, for every word. And I had worked all day on it. I even got up and walked away at one point but it didn’t help. By the time I was serving supper I’d only managed 1000 words. At the time I was managing around 2000 words a day, and that in only a few hours of working. A thousand words all day? Really? Argh!
Well, I had my supper, cleaned up, then sat my butt back down in the chair determined to hit 1500 words at least and then give up. If it wasn’t working, then it wasn’t working. I’d try my best and then let it go and work on it later. I even had a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey to fortify myself. That’s when this sarcastic British voice popped in and said “maybe you should have tried that earlier.” And then ensued a conversation in which a full-formed character introduced himself to me. Ever since that night I have been plagued/fascinated/annoyed/intrigued by this character in my head. I love him. But when it comes time to actually sit down and write about him…nothing. Jerk.
But that’s how it goes sometimes. The thing is, I ended up after the snarky comment writing about 3500 words, and I left with ideas and scenes ready to be written.
Most recently I’ve been doing a lot of reading (if by that you understand that I walk into a library with two books and come out with 25-not even kidding) and one of the books I finished last weekend was Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman. I was intrigued by one of the stories in it, A Study In Emerald. Gaiman took Sherlock Holmes and put him smack dab into a Lovecraftian world. It was a very interesting story and I was hooked. I love the idea of mashing up stories and seeing what happens.
So, after reading on into the book I realized my attention kept wandering because I was engrossed in coming up with ideas for this story that had taken hold of my mind. Combined with a poem I wrote called Femme Fatale (posted a few weeks ago) and my love of gothic horror stories, the ideas finally forced me to sit down and write a flash fiction piece based on Jack the Ripper. It is completely out of my normal writing genre (fantasy, romance, poetry) and it was fun and fantastic, and I am completely excited about it. It has what I hope are some very cool twists, and I am considering extending it into a short story. Partly because I have a deadline to meet by August and I am trying to come up with some ideas, but mostly I think it would be a great story. And sometimes, it goes that way, too.
What about you? Have you ever sat down and realized that what you thought you were going to write isn’t what you are writing? How did that affect your story? Did you end up writing a scene completely different, or did you begin a whole new story?
By the way, want a snarky half-elf? He’s driving me up a wall lately.