Where does the mind of a writer go for a story?
August 18, 2013
It all begins with a thought.
A single idea.
It takes root and it threatens to run off and leave you, and a writer has to run hard to keep up.
That’s how words become sentences and sentences become stories and stories become books.
The mind of a writer is a fascinating mechanism. They all work differently. Yet, they all spit out word, spin yarns, tell unforgettable stories. And each of the writers, each of the minds, work differently. I recently talked with Jory Sherman and Jack Durish and asked them to explain their own distinct methods for writing their novels.
This is what they told me.
Jory Sherman, author of The Eden Tree, along with 400 other novels: Each writer has his or her own method of writing a novel.
Here is mine:
The seed is the Idea.
I hold the seed in the palm of my mind and give it a name.
There is my title. The title refers either directly or obliquely to the story.
Next, I plant the seed in the soil of a scene. I picture where the story begins.
I fertilize the seed with a name of a character or two. Perhaps one is a man, the other a woman.
I water the scene by painting its picture, describing the time and place.
My characters begin to germinate and grow. Imagination is my rake, discipline my hoe.
I need not plot the story, only place my seed where the sun will shine on it and the rain will help it to grow.
The novel contains all the future seeds for a garden of words. Characters come to life and interact with other characters and situations. This is a self-generating process. Each scene leads to another like shots in a motion picture.
The scenes proliferate like buds, and each chapter is a leaf on the climbing vine as the story grows. Obstacles, like thorns, appear in the paths of the main characters. Other subplots sprout fresh shoots and add depth and substance to the stalks of the story.
This entire process is explained in my book, MASTER COURSE IN WRITING.
It’s easy, for me, to grow a book from a single seed.
Jack Durish, author of Rebels on the Mountain: I never begin writing until I’ve completed my research and that’s a process that began more than six decades in the past. I have been collecting people, places, and events to be used in my novels all of my life. I have also been collecting skills and knowledge that my characters might employ. Soldier, sailor, artist, computer programmer and computer network architect, as well as countless other skills have been accumulating on my resume.
When I finally chose to write about Cuba and Castro, my research focused on that place and that personality in that time. However, I quickly learned that all extant writings about them were myopic, seen through the lenses of prejudice and propaganda, and I cast my net back into antiquity to learn how the people and their society evolved so that I could critically separate the wheat from the chaff of knowledge.
Fortunately, my training as a navigator, both on land and at sea, taught me to read maps and extrude the topography of a place from two dimensional representations. Google Earth allowed me to wander through neighborhoods and peek into the real lives of people living in the towns and cities. Satellite photos showed me the countryside and coastal areas.
I kept at it until I could not only see the milieu of the island, but also smell its flowers, hear its sounds, and taste its foods. These experiences came from watching Cuban-made movies, listening to music, and learning their dances. The Internet also allowed me to study the flora and fauna of the island. I kept at it until Cuba came alive in my head. It was then that I cast my characters into the conflict and sat back to watch how they reacted, feel what they felt, and hear what they said.
My characters are all cast from real people. I have been blessed with a host of them. Truly interesting people have touched my life and I have given them homes in my heart, mind, and soul. Even the ones I hated, the ones who did me harm, are there. My ex-wife is there, waiting to be cast as Lilith, the mother of all witches.
Interestingly, I chose a story of Korea for my next novel. The protagonist from my first novel of Cuba made that choice for me. As I wrote Rebels on the Mountain, I learned that he was a Korean War veteran and he wanted to tell me that story. Now that I have almost completed my focused research I understand why.
There is a theme that echoes the one I learned in Cuba, that United States foreign policy has long been driven by racism, and Nick wanted you and me to know this. He also wanted me to discover the festering sore of the massacre at No Gun Ri, and to balance that tale against others of American honor and sacrifice that helped save Koreans from death and depredations at the hands of the Communists. Unfortunately, I also learned that much of that could have been avoided had America not encouraged the Communists to launch the war through diplomatic missteps.
Well, the characters are almost all cast and I’m almost ready to throw them into the war. Honestly, I’m almost afraid of what I’m about to see.
Please click the book covers to read more about the authors and their novels on Amazon.