Monday, December 3, 2012

William Tooker discusses "The Voice"! He Knows Why You Can't Finish a Story!


   I Know Why You Can't Finish a Story

My first foundling attempt at writing was probably in kindergarten. In all honesty it wasn't so much an attempt at writing as an excuse to make construction paper masks. I announced during Show and Tell that I wanted to put on a play, named 3 of my classmates and gave them masks I had made the night before and whispered in the huddle," we're monsters and we have to find something to eat." From there we just sort of shambled around through improperly guessed eye hole slits and growled at our classmates.

It suffered from the problem suffered by many would be writers in that its not so much a story as an idea about an incident. Even when I started really putting time into writing in High School with my friend David Moots we came up against the same issue even though my ability to describe had evolved.

While my mouth definitely moved a lot during those days I did not really have a lot to say. Lots of my ideas about the world were wrong or under-informed and like a lot of kids just assumed that everything happening was a well oiled system with nary a glitch. I didn't have any real complaints. I didn't understand the weight of consequence as fully as I have grown to and its just an affliction called having to grow up.

My voice had not established itself at all, though I was decent at the mechanics and could give you something you could follow. Once I had described the scene and established a little character I could give you some action but could not force myself through the next step. What happened after the fight? What filled the gaps between this combat and the next? I had no emotional truth of the moment to share.

What finally broke this was when I learned to see events in my own life in terms of events and emotions and influences of others. It's perfectly likely that had I gleaned the trick earlier I might have already been able to process it.

So if you are having trouble filling in the gaps I mentioned try seeing your story in the context of your characters whole life. Most heroes in stories are normal people who have to rise to the occasion. What was normal life and are they going to be able to get back to it? Do they want to?  Is your hero focused or does he get in his own way? What is the reader supposed to get out of this? All of these questions have answers that help you fill in the blanks about what motivates your characters and how life drives them between conflict.

I know why you can't finish your beginnings or begin your endings. You haven't yet learned to see the stories in your own life. But don't worry as long as you keep at it you'll get there. After all, writing is a process. 

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