The trouble with stories is they hardly ever come out linear, at least, not on the first try. I’m usually lying in bed trying to sleep when I realize I want Freddy to be a vampire who can’t stand blood. That seems compelling enough on its own but when I pair it with Freddy’s secret desire to be a fighter pilot and his reluctance to enter the state of Texas it gets more complex.
How do those elements fit together?
Narrative drive has become an evil term for me lately. I feel like I’m always asking myself, what does the protagonist want? How does he get it? What happens next logically?
I thought I was a writer, not a mathematician or a scientist! There’s a reason I didn’t take math in college — Liberal Arts major, capital L, capital A. I thought being a writer excused me from having to use logic.
Well I was wrong, because writing is something short of solving a puzzle. The fun part is creating all of the elements — all the quirky characters, ominous settings and snappy dialogue. The headache-inducing part is linking it all together in a coherent manner, or creating a narrative drive.
After hours of racking my brain I might eventually decide that Freddy’s reluctance to set foot in Texas is absolutely related to his dislike of blood. Perhaps Texas is where his human best friend was farmed for blood (this is getting gory, isn’t it?) by the vampire government. Maybe Freddy senses the injustice of oppressing humans by imprisonment and making profit from blood sales. And maybe Freddy wants to be a fighter pilot because he’s preparing to turn against the vampire army controlling these human farms.
That’s a different story than what I had before because, quite simply, it is now a story. Freddy is not just a vampire, he’s a vampire who craves justice and species equality. He’s active in fighting for his rights and brave enough to betray his own kind for it. Freddy is a dynamic character with a goal, motivation and plenty of conflict.
Creating stories is certainly fun, but when you find yourself jamming puzzle pieces together that don’t seem to fit it can be something short of torture. But luckily, if you let your mind be free, let your imagination run wild, you will eventually figure out how all of your elements connect, and you might even surprise yourself.
So hang in there troubled writers. No one can write your story but you.