Updated: Feb 10
In the previous post, I talked about the 3 phases of writing. This is an in-depth explanation of the first step of that phase, finding the story. Let me share with you the method I use to find stories.
The Story I Wrote
It was during the summer holidays a few years back that I decided to write a short story. I did this to try and gauge how much better I have become in my writing. At this point, I've tried writing multiple short stories, but they all turned into novel-length ideas once I fleshed out the characters and events. I was in the mood to write a romance story with an interesting concept. I loved trying to stretch my mind for creative ideas and wanted some spice for this story. So this is what I came up with: A massive clock appears in the sky above a city in the late 1900s. This Clock was simply a visual representation and timer of the fact that two nearly identical realities collided. (You could say parallel Universe, but the world my stories were all based in had already consisted of multiple universes. Clusters of Universes were called realities. There was no central timeline but there are realities that are moving parallel to one another in time. The further you diverge from the original reality, the more difference there would be in the reality. Such as personality changes in people etc.) So, when this collision happened there would be about a few months' time before the clock struck midnight and the realities will separate. The main Character, Remercier, didn't care about any of this and he hated himself. But the Story essentially went about Remercier finding love over the course of these few months. The person he learns to love is the alternate female version of himself. It is more a romance story of Remercier and the female lead learning to love themselves.
The Story I Found
So I wrote 8000 words, but after having edited it for a while, it just didn't feel right. Something didn't sit well with me about the story. So I did something insane. I scrapped the dozens of hours of work and started looking from the story from outside. "What can I look at and feel, "yes, this may be right"? And what then can I look at and say, "This feels dead wrong." So I banished everything that felts slightly off to the shadow realm. The feeling I'm speaking about is the same feeling you have when you lie to someone. In this case, I was lying to myself. If there was even a tiny inkling that something was not what it was supposed to be, I threw it away. And so, all I was left with was: The big clock in the sky Fragments of Remerciers Personality And the names of the characters (Which I don't care to get right. They can have whatever name. I'm not going to spend hours trying to figure it out.)
Yeah, that's all. Simply put, nothing else felt right. Today, after about two years of doing this process of continually sifting out everything that feels wrong and crafting a world of everything that feels right the current story doesn't resemble the original in any way. It has now transformed into a massive fantasy epic with multiple storylines and a hard magic system. I'm still carving the diamond out of the rock but I'm getting very close to that diamond, I can feel it.
There are a few things that helped me pick what is right and what is wrong. These are the tools I used.
I would browse art for literally hours on end (One day when we were on holiday away from home, I spent 5-6 consecutive hours browsing art.) I would go to every website available. My main sources were Artstation, Pinterest, and Pixiv. I would have organized pins categorized by, Character Inspiration, Monster Art, Environment, Weapons, Creatures, and much more. Many of my characters, locations, and story elements came through simple inspiration through art. It happened rarely that I outright changed my story because of an art piece. But 99% of the time it changed my story through feeling rather than any specific thing or element. "I want to create the feeling in my story that this art piece makes me feel." The biggest example of this is the first time art changed my story directly. I saw the art of a particular character that really reached deep into my emotions. So deep in fact that it just felt right to replicate it in my story. That replication domino affected the creation of a completely new storyline with a new character (who today doesn’t at all resemble the art piece).
Listening To Music
It's the same with music as it was with Art. The music I listened to rarely had vocals and when they did it acted as an instrument. I listen to orchestral music, but this is mostly also because of the time I spent listening to it for inspiration for my story. Finding music that connects with your story helps you to write, but finding a story that connects with the emotion of the music is what helps you find out what feels right and what feels wrong. "I want to replicate these emotions in my story," "I want this type of vibe for my story." Each time something feels off, I listen to music. Does it fit the emotions I was going for? The music will instantly tell me whether I am right or wrong.
Consuming Other Stories
It's the biggest impact on my storytelling. While browsing art and listening to the music acted like the pickaxe to carve away at the stone to find the diamond, other stories were like dynamite I could blow stone away with. It didn't come along often, I couldn’t use it to carve away at the rock predictably and consistently, but it has a massive impact each time I get lucky enough to find such a story. Again, the primary benefit for me is matching the emotions I feel that a story gives me to my own story. "I WANT TO WRITE SOMETHING LIKE THIS," or, "I WANT TO BE ABLE TO CREATE THESE EMOTIONS," are words that echo in my mind while my vision blurs from rolling tears. It has only happened a handful of times, but each time it happens my story drastically changes. The standard for what feels right and wrong shifts. Something that felt right or wrong in the past suddenly feels wrong or right. It completely changes what I had, and brings me closer to finding what I want. You can't just find these stories predictably, unfortunately, and they won't come along often at all. There are some things here and there that can help. For example. Not a single Western Written story (With the exception of Avatar: The Last Airbender) has made me change my story dramatically. About two Dozen Eastern Written shows, however, did change my story dramatically. This might be biased since I consume much more Eastern Stories than Western Stories, but I've found that I can at least have such an experience 3 times a year with Eastern Stories. Which is consistent and frequent enough for me. Sometimes reconsuming great stories also help craft your stories further.
These are just some methods I use to find the true translation of my story.
Please comment below if you want to share some ideas of your own or even if you want to challenge mine. I'd love to have a conversation.