Friday, September 9, 2016

Of Imagination and Trees...
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your BEST BUD. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

It’s kind of unusual for Jamie and I to send each other quotes for a week that have nothing in common (other than their writerly inspiration) but that was the case last week. Her quotes, in particular, were really good ones, despite the fact she thought a couple of them were repeats (only one of them seemed familiar to me).

It was a tough call, but of the quotes she sent me I finally picked this one because it’s one I can relate to:

Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.
- Ann Patchett

I spend a lot of time in my own head, maybe too much, but it’s an interesting place to be. Just like reading, writing can be a wonderful escape. In fact, it can be an even better escape than reading because you can mould the world you escape to into whatever you wish.

I think all writers have a secret place in their heads they can go to. Maybe it’s to escape the daily grind, but maybe it’s the place where we generate our ideas. Or maybe it’s the place where we can have a drink with our characters to see what they have to say.

While I don’t have an imaginary friend to take tea with, I do enjoy having adventures in my own head. My imagination can keep me entertained for hours - when I’m bored, or trying to relax, or trying to fall asleep. It’s like a movie on continuous play in my mind and I’ll refine it with each pass. Sometimes I refine it to the point where I just have to write it down, but sometimes I just let it go.

Now, I have to be honest here. I didn’t like any of my quotes from last week. After staring at them for a while, I finally had it down to two. I ended up picking this one for the simple fact it was the shorter of the two:

When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

You can never go wrong with a quote from Stephen King. ;-)

And you know, he’s right on with this sentiment. As writers we do spend an inordinate amount of time on the trees - the little things, the details, of a story. But once we’re finished we have to step back and look at the big picture, to make sure all these little pieces come together to create a whole.

You start with the forest floor, that consists of leaf litter and soil. For the writer that means sifting through your thoughts and notes, casting about, then settling on an idea.

Next comes the herbaceous layer with the seedlings and non-woody plants. Here the writer begins to flesh out the idea he or she planted, watering it with care and nurturing it.

Then we have the shrub layer filled with immature trees, shrubs, and animals. This layer adds detail to the forest, just as you begin to add detail to your story.

The understory contains trees that aren’t quite mature; they’re close, but still have some growing to do. This is the revision stage, where things aren’t quite right yet and need to be polished.

And finally we have the canopy of the tallest oldest trees, exposed to all the elements, and protecting everything below it. Your story is finished and ready to be exposed to the world. This is the culmination of everything that has gone before.

So ... what kind of forest will grow of the seeds you plant?

1 comment:

Ann Bennett said...

I spend a lot of time unraveling points of a story. Mentally, writing fiction is a brain boost for me as a young senior citizen. I walk in a pool late in the evening. It gives me time to think about my stories.

The other night I was looking at one woman who was walking in the same lane as me and I had the thought, I wonder what she is thinking about. I have a talking buddy who is usually there. This woman always keep to herself. She is friendly but not interested in talking. I understand sometimes I just want peace and quiet.

Although I don't like she has them to turn the music off when she is there. I figure she must have to listen to a lot of racket or what seems like racket during the day.