September 25th, 2008

alias thoughtful

What I need to write

Now that things are settling down around here, and the cold I caught just after the move is getting better, my writerly instincts are kicking in. Story! they say. Write! Oooh, that idea feels shiny! (Like most instincts, they are not very articulate. They leave that part up to me.)

It's too early to dive back into LOKI'S BOY--I always let novel drafts sit at least a month before going back to them--so I've been batting about various story ideas at various stages of development. There are a few things that really appeal to me, a sort of storyline I'd like to try, a premise that's always tickled my imagination, but nothing's coming together yet. This is a pretty normal stage in my writing process--the stage where nothing's quite ready yet. ;)

What's different this time, though, is that I'm starting to realize what I need for an idea to feel ready. After having two story ideas that took forever before they felt ready to be written (THE HALFWAY HERO and LOKI'S BOY, which I was playing with and attempting to write for four/five years before they finally *worked*), I'm learning what the sticking point is, what makes the difference between a cool idea that's on the verge but not there and 'omigod I must write this now!'

Meaning. I have to know what the story means to me. Not a moral or a message, but how it matters, what about the plot and characters deeply resonates with me, why I feel it's important to tell *this* story. If I try to write a story without that, it feels flat to me, which means it'd no doubt feel flat to readers. It's not enough to think the characters are fun and the plotline exciting and twisty--I have to really *care* about whether or not this story gets told.

Unfortunately, I can't make a story idea mean something to me. I can play with it and explore it and all that, but ultimately that sense of resonance and meaning seems to just happen when it's ready to. Thankfully, all the ideas I get already have at least a kernel of that, or I wouldn't find them interesting in the first place. :) And I think knowing what I need to have will make finding it easier.

What about the rest of you? What do you *need* before you can really write a story?