Writing fiction is as much about staying grounded as it is about suspending belief. You are told that you must follow the rules and make things believable. If you write contemporary fiction, you hear it over and over again –is your story plausible? Would a twelve year old girl really do that? Say that? Believe that? Even if you write fantasies, you must build your world, make the rules of its existence clear and follow the rules consistently. In all this rule thinking, rule remembering and rule following, I have a hard time keeping the spirit of my story alive.
Sometimes the spirit of the story is wonky, whimsical –it wants to run free, do the unexpected, stay unpredictable. It’s a story where the MC is a boy who is thrown into a world that we’ve never imagine. Or about a girl who makes you re-think all the stereotypes about rich, spoilt twelve year olds. Thinking about the rules during my revisions smothers my imagination, reigns in my inner child and dissolves that je ne sais quoi feeling that I like my stories to have.
Don’t get me wrong. We need the rules to guide us through our writing so that we make our stories more engaging and memorable. But sometimes I edit too much. I cut too much. I revise too much. End result? My story just doesn’t feel the same way anymore.
How to follow the rules and keep your inner child alive so that your story stays as your story?
1. For me, distraction always works, be it song lyrics (Taylor Swift helped me with my last round of revisions), old movies (the Barrymore brothers, do I need to say anything more?) or a History channel reality show (Ice Road Truckers!). Distraction helps me get the rules in perspective and makes me focus on what I liked about my story and MC in the first place.
2. I like to get moving. Cleaning, running errands, doing the grocery, chopping the veggies, and best of all, yoga! There’s something about feeling the burn in your arms and legs that relaxes the brain and helps to re-visualize a scene. I’m sure that’s some scientific reasoning behind this. Whatever it may be, moving helps me to zone in on the most important piece of a scene or chapter and edit out everything else.
3. Getting out of my comfort zone also helps. Networking with a large group of people, scuba diving, bungee jumping –doing something that makes me nervous helps me forget about the nagging points of my manuscript. So when I return a weekend or a week later, I only remember the important rules and the important parts of the scene. My mind is quieter and the only voice I hear in my head is that of my narrator.
Do you struggle with keeping your inner child alive? Do you have any tricks that you use to stay true to your story?