Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In Defense of Conversation

There is some old wisdom out there that goes essentially like this: "Keep your ideas to yourself." I think that's a bunch of hooey. Maybe my experience is different from everyone else's, but I generally find out the most interesting things about a story when I'm trying to explain it to someone else. I write my synopses as though I am explaining to my best friend what exactly about this story is cool. It helps me to frame what the reader would find interesting. I know, I know, that's not actually talking to someone about it. I'll get to that. First, I have to flesh it out in a way that explaining it isn't hard. It makes me wonder when I'm figuring out how to illuminate an idea so that others can have the same Aha! moment that I'm having.

So where does the conversation come in?

The conversation comes in when I actually sit down across from a friend of mine and start talking to her about what makes me giddy happy about this story. What makes the horses in my head gallop toward the conclusion. Usually at this point, there are questions. This is my favorite part. She asks me all kinds of things and when I have a total 'I have no idea' moment, I know there is something there I need to address. Whether it ends up in the story or not, I should have answers to most of the questions other people ask. In fact, lots of it won't end up in the story, it'll just be background and brain fodder for me while I'm writing away. Best part, I'm telling you. I know why that character has that name, but I don't have to explain it to everyone. It makes for good conversation at conferences and helps me to be on point when a reader asks the not quite all important question but the one burning a hole in the back of their brain.

Do you have these kinds of conversation with just anybody? I do with people I trust not to crush my dreams like candy under a hammer. You know those people. Don't discuss things which make your heart beat with those people. They'll just make you feel bad. Otherwise, have story conversations with anyone you can have a conversation with. They might not all have great insights, but they will always make you have to think and that's the point. No matter what, thinking is the point. Figure out how to answer their questions. Come up with new nuances of story while you chatter. Enjoy talking! Writing can be such a lonely profession. Being able to talk about our imaginary worlds will ofttimes bring smiles to our faces.

Like right now, I'm working on Blades of Fate, the sequel to Chains of Fate which I put out in June. I sat across from a close friend and discussed the inner workings of the living cities, which you see much more of in the second book. In that conversation, I named all of the cities, got down to their basic personalities, and considered what their history/backstory. All because a friend asked a question and I had to really think about it. Score! Conversation. It serves a purpose.

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