Now What?

I sit in front of a blank page and ask myself, “now what?” I’ve made a commitment to post to my blog more regularly, but what does that mean, really?

To start, I can brainstorm topics and try to glean some sort of order to them, then write a couple thousand words on each, and diligently post one up every couple of weeks or so. Good start. See, I tried to do that, and came up with a list of … wait for it … one thing, which will most likely turn into the next blog post. But… I never was good at planning a story or the characters that populate those fictional worlds. The characters just come to life in my imagination and begin telling me their stories. See, I’ve always been more of a “pantser” in, er, technical terms.

In my other writing life, my projects come fast and furious, so I don’t really have a choice in what project I need or get to work on next. An engineering-driven date is given to me, and I work like crazy to make that deadline happen. That’s one thing that most likely keeps me a pantser. I’ve never really had much of a chance to plan out most of my projects (except one, and that’s left a bad taste, but mostly because of outside influences, I loved the planning and execution of the plan part).

My brain will find a subject and hold on for dear life until I investigate as many angles as I care to explore at that time, or that are necessary to meet the assigned deadline. Then I’ll be ready to move onto the next idea or project. Until then, trying to think forward just stresses me out. I also tend to write a ton more fiction when I’m uber-stressed and practically none at all when I’m normal-stressed, another shortcoming I need to overcome. So, again I’m left with “now what?”

Well, I thought I could start with a perennial favorite: “How do your stories begin? Where do you find the inspiration?” (And lucky us, my grandson (GS) is creating a new campaign for us to run while my son takes a player-break.)

I’ve always been a people watcher. I remember as a kid, I would quietly slip out of sight of the campfire when were out camping and find a comfortable place to watch my friends and family without being seen. Not because I was particularly nosy, but because I always felt socially awkward and wanted to watch how other people acted, just to make sure I was doing it right. See, I learn best by observing. Even now, I sometimes sit back and pretend I’m invisible just to watch people, listen to the cadence of their speech pattern, watch their mannerisms, and sometimes goggle at their attire.

But, more on that later.

I gave a few hints about the direction of these musings in my last post. You’ll hear more about some of the characters I have stuck in my head, and more. I know even more characters will pop up and demand attention. And I have another project I plan to introduce at some point.

I have spent the last several years playing an online version of D&D with a group of fellows who are also writers and storytellers. They love to write as much as I do. We’ve spent almost five years playing the game together and for the first two or more years, we wrote stories about our respective characters and posted them to the game storytelling forum. Until an unbalancing force entered the game and we lost our writing momentum, that is. We had an absolute blast writing those vignettes for our Friday night alter egos and bouncing our characters’ reactions off each other’s writings. We still play those characters on Fridays, only now they are more experienced, and our new mix has worked out a mostly winning strategy.

I asked the group if they would mind if I took those posts and turned them into something more. The guys were all OK with the idea. So, over time, that series of posts will be turned into a story. The world will change, as will the place names, and maybe the character names. I haven’t decided whether I’ll post it on the blog itself, but I would certainly provide a link for anyone who wanted to read the series.

I have a couple of table game campaigns that will turn into new story-tabs as well as profiles of some of the characters related to those campaigns. I have a contemporary-ish story with a couple of twists that I need to get out of my system before my head explodes. And as always, never enough time to devote to the tasks at hand. At least not right now.

So, I spend my time trying to maintain a spreadsheet for each character and story associated with that character. This keeps the characters fresh in my head and I have reminders of what the individuals want me to write about when I get there. Unfortunately, not all my notes go into a such a nifty, easy-to-rearrange format. I also carry around a pad of paper and a pen, so that I can jot down notes as I think of them, and each notable character has their own personal notebook, so that they can tell me their stories as they think of things. I later transcribe those notes into electronic form to use in stories. And, as ever in the electronics age, I always have my smart phone’s voice-activated notepad should inspiration strike and I can’t take the time to write it, I can just talk into my phone.

That probably sounds very schizophrenic to someone who doesn’t write, but many fiction writers I’ve talked to or read on the forums seems to feel much the same as I do about the other personalities that take up space in their imaginations. We don’t just have one imaginary friend, we have many. I have probably thirty notebooks at hand that have either character outlines or notes on the different aspects of Adara—religion, politics, history, and the economy, just to name a few.

As this page matures, I will look to you, my readers, to tell me what interests you. Even though I write mostly for myself, did I mention … SQUIRREL! Sometimes I need others to help keep me focused, and I’m blessed to have people in my life who keep me that way. I want to thank the group with whom I play, Hazelnut, DrowsworD, and Fricko, you guys are the best. And as ever, I want to thank First Reader, the wonderful woman who keeps me balanced and has allowed me the freedom to Become—a grrl can’t ask for more than that.

Next time, an introduction to my process: Let Me Introduce….

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