EXTRACTING THE STORY – not as painful as teeth
by Sheryl Gwyther
It’s funny how stories come to be. Princess Clown began with two words – princess and clown (naturally), but they weren’t just any old words. To me, they jangled and bangle-d and clashed together. They did not match.
In other words, they would do the job of creating TENSION and CONFLICT – just what a story needs.
Of course, it’s fine to have an idea for a story but you have to take it further!
I love what master-storyteller Stephen King says about that elusive component to writing – “extracting the story”.
He likens the stories and the ideas upon which they are founded to “fossils” and writers to “archaeologists” (correct term should be “palaeontologists” if we’re talking about fossils, but let’s not quibble over this often confused term).
“Our job as writers is to extract the story – using everything from jackhammer to toothbrush – to reach its pristine form.” Stephen King.
This terminology of locating and extracting ancient fossil treasures in the earth struck a chord with me because I worked on a fossil dig in Western Queensland while researching my junior fiction, Secrets of Eromanga.
That process is exactly what finding your story is like. You must sense whether it is time to get down and dirty with the jackhammer and forget about the damage inflicted.
For me, this is the dreaded, mental agony of the first-draft stage.
The reward comes with the toothbrush, paintbrush and dental pick – rewriting stage – just like on a fossil dig when the tiniest, most fragile imprint of an ancient pine cone waits to see the light of day. You tease it with the dental tool, you coax it with your toothbrush and you brush away the layers until it is exposed in its pristine form. Ahhhh!
Well, almost pristine. There is always room for improvement in writing – which is why I appreciate my writing friends. They are the ones I trust to read my writing drafts and be honest in their opinion; who will pick up inconsistencies or notice when a bit of “telling not showing” creeps in. They share the frustrations, the rejections, the successes of a writer’s life.
Then, there’s the joy of digging through history, researching …. but that is another story!
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