Friday, April 8, 2011

I think about a story until it has a thunderous pulse.

I enjoy novellas.

I enjoy the plot urgency; intimate length; sometimes lack of chapters; optional titles and art; and the excitement of completing a story without facing the effort of a novel.

When it comes to story crafting, I like to think. A LOT. And think, and think some more, and continue to think until the setting is alive and thriving in my imagination and the characters are walking, talking, breathing, and whatever else may be pertinent to the time and place.

It's what I do. And then I think some more. I think about the characters: their feelings, wants, needs, sexuality, hobbies, lifestyles, hopes, fears, habits, and most importantly motives. Through these exercises I discover the story.

(It's kind of like squeezing oranges with a juicer.)

Through the characters I begin to see the conflict. Why the conflict exists. Its origin, and why the conflict continues to exist. The conflict may be as simple as a lover's quarrel over a misplaced shared treasure. The conflict may be as difficult as a son faced with watching his mother degenerate into a zombie.

I think about the characters as friends, family, neighbors, as random encounters at Costco or at Disneyland, at a red light, waiting in line on the way to work for a cup of coffee at the local coffee house, because, after all, a story without people is just sugarless gum. The first rush is pregnant with curiosity, then after a few chews the flavor wanes, replaced with boredom and disappointment: Sugarless gum.

Who cares about sugarless gum? Yuck! I certainly don't.

I want my readers to care about the characters I have created, to cheer them on, to wonder what's in store in the resolution.

In the first novella I'm crafting, the conflict is based on a true experience of life and death. Its sudden and imminent confirmation, the specter of death, the celebration of life, the horrors of pain. I am still unpacking the emotions. My kids will never truly experience their grandma. She was a powerful woman. Spicy, hot-headed, opinionated Italian. Flawed like all of us, yet a wonderful spirit who cared so deeply and passionately about her friends and family that she was an unwavering giant.

I have been unpacking the emotions for so long now that I know I may never finish unpacking them. Something will always remind me of her and remind me of the simple fact that my kids will not have a chance to grow up with her. Never paint Easter eggs with her. Never rush into her house on Christmas morning in their pajamas. Never hear her sing Happy Birthday. In these experiences, in these memories I found a story, and it's almost finished. She gave so much to so many people. In those final months she was surrounded by the people how cared about her most. The men in her life? Nowhere in sight.

6 comments:

  1. So, will this novella be a "semi-biographical work of fiction?"

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  2. It's not semi-bio. It does draw from this experience and places it in a science fiction setting of what if. Part of me is in the story, but not in any one particular character. And although the source of the material is very personal, the story itself does not take on that approach. It's really about a study into life and death, and beyond...

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  3. Hey Ken...you make me feel better about my novella. I just want it to sell. I know my story is great reading. I did some research online and it made me feel as though I should make my story into a full novel. Suggestions? I'm in limbo...

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  4. The simple truth is (and I might get some flack from this comparison, but the spirit of the adventure is one in the same) if J.K. Rowling can do it, and Amanda Hocking can do it, then you and I can do it.

    Will we ever achieve the same success as Rowling or Hocking?

    No.

    What the two of them experienced can only be experienced by them.

    But you and I can learn from their success and apply its potential to our road map. The road is singular, so take it for what it is.

    Your voice is your voice..

    After talking to Pimpin a few weeks previous, he got me thinking about uploading a story to Kindle.

    Of course the risk is no different than getting a publisher to accept your book. The odds are the same, in my opinion. Some would argue that publisher approval is a stamp in itself. But getting noticed and getting published are not the same.

    The entrepreneur in me says go for the Kindle.

    I sent out a few short stories in the past to mags. They were rejected, but that hasn't stopped me. Rejection hasn't pushed me away from mags or publishers. And someday, if a publisher likes my work then I'll listen...

    To me the Kindle market is the same as the iTunes market. It's available to anyone willing to take the risk of putting their talent into the mix.

    The community will decide if a story has merit or not.

    It's risky, but the payoff is a different kind of reward.

    The Kindle allows artists to engage in their craft directly and earn reward differently. It's a mixed bag, though, because the expectation for that reward can be higher than acceptance from a publisher who screens for talent.

    Regardless, you should finish the novel (if it isn't), have an editor look at it (this may be the most challenging aspect since you have to trust the editing talent), and then prepare the novel for Kindle publishing, which is super easy by the way.

    All it takes is a little faith in your talent. In my opinion that's what drove Rowling and Hocking. Faith got them through some tough times. What distinguishes such talent from us is acting on a commitment to self. That investment is priceless. So, I wish you investment. Good luck!

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  5. Of course... Can't wait to read your novel. (:

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