12 November 2010

Story Confidante

Do you have a story confidante?  If you get this grand idea in your head, who is the person you first tell this idea to?  Does this person also bounce ideas off of you?

My story confidante is my friend (secret codename) Herb.  I met her when I got involved in the local writing group on campus.  She's really awesome in that she sees stories in general from a different perspective than most readers, according to her.  An example would be her view of the hit book Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins as compared to other people I've talked with.  While some people don't like Katniss's character in the third book, Herb loves it.  She loves how it really shows how war is a destructive force that rips you as a person apart.  It destroys Katniss in the Hunger Games trilogy.  And Herb embraces that fact and loves how its showed to the reader. 

And its this kind of perspective I value in a reader because that's how I want my stories to be interpreted.  So, whenever I get an idea for something, she's usually the first person to hear about it.  Such as the case this past summer.  I got this idea for this book.  It didn't come with a grand finale, it didn't pop out of no where and get me so giddy and excited that I just started writing without bothering where it was heading.  No.  This started as an idea.  And my talks with Herb help to strengthen this idea.  And then it became more than an idea, and it became an outline, and then several outlines.  And then I took my own advice and just shut up and wrote.  And then the characters did their own things and the story took a different turn.  Before I knew it, I was doing something other than what I intended to do.  I would bounce ideas of Herb to see if she liked them or not. 

Likewise, she's been doing the same for me.  She sent me an email with two different scenarios.  And then she told me about a completely difference scenario.  Before I knew it, I was telling her my opinion about various other scenarios that seem totally different but apparently revolve around the same central theme.  I didn't mind.  Although I couldn't keep track of which aspect of the theme was being brought out in each scenario, I could give her feedback on which was cliche and which was more interesting.  She took my advice and stuck with the Eastern influences (I think -- she didn't really specify what made her return to them).  She also listened to me when I told her that her mermaid idea wasn't strong enough to stand on its own (this she argued, but she told me that she slept on it and the urge to write it really was weaker the next day). 

In a way, we shape each other's stories based on our initial opinions.  When we talk about these things, we talk about how a reader might react to such and such.  Most importantly, I look for Herb's responses.  If she doesn't like something, I'm more likely to change it.
It's probably a bad idea I have this kind of influence that affects decisions, but not always.  When I first proposed my own story to her, she didn't like a few of the characters because she couldn't fully understand their motives.  Being new to me as well, I didn't fully understand their motives either, but as their writer I knew they were important enough to stick around.  Although a rational part of my brain told me to drop them and write about the people Herb likes, I didn't.  And now that they're more developed in my head and I'm able to describe their motives and characterizations better, Herb is more sympathetic towards them.  So although she does influence my decisions, she doesn't have full control over them.  Likewise, I can only do so much when I tell her to "shut up and write.  I want to read what you have, for Pete's sake!"  She refused to get anything solid until NaNoWriMo this month.

I don't know if we'll collaborate again like this for later stories, but for now, I like our little mutual-partnership.  What about you?  Do you have anyone you confide in when it comes to new ideas?  Who are they to you and what is it about their opinion that you value?

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