from tone comes voice comes story
I’m making pretty good progress with my story I’m calling “Superman.” This is the one I’m “forcing” myself to write rather than waiting for it to arrive fully formed in my feverish brain, only needing to be written down. I have to say I’m enjoying the process. I think just as deadlines often spur creativity, a little rigor and discipline can do the same.
That being said, I seem to possess an essential control I need to conjure this story. I have determined the tone I need to use to set it down, and that’s made the difference. It’s an elegiac tone. It’s a story of memory and a bit of regret, and by knowing that, I know the words to use. I know the voice to use. And by having the tone and the voice in hand (as well as the bare bones of the plot) I can write the story.
I’ve said before that my story “Velvet Elvis” seemed to have written itself. There are whole parts of it that I can’t recall writing, little comic bits or turns of phrase or connections that I can’t give an account for. I think that’s because I had the voice in mind as I wrote it. It was a comic voice (much like the one that guided “Moron Saturday“), which is different from the one for “Superman,” but with the voice in place, that story flowed.
And so it is with “Superman.” It helps that the story does spring more rather than less from my own life experience (as all stories must, right?). This is the story I hinted at in this old post. I said that I have the bare bones of the plot in mind, but I’ve found myself diverging from them some as I write. And I’ve realized that an exact road map is not essential, at least for this story. What I’m finding on the page is better than what I had imagined I would put there.
I suspect this can explain those “seat-of-the-pants” writers who claim they start out writing a story with no idea of its plot. Perhaps they do not have the plot (though maybe they just don’t realize they do), but they do have some other essential components: the right voice, a real character, a compelling setting, or a combination of these. And whatever the melange, the story flows naturally from it. So these writers think they don’t know the plot when actually story is already whole and just waiting to be written down.