THE EMPTY SPACES #1: spines...
A Psychodrama Spacefiller
By Bradly E. Peterson
Last week, we spoke at length about space. Let's talk now about filling those spaces.
Now, if you're an artist, this will be of special interest to you, because this column's going to be about story... Please, put down the rotten vegetables. Thanks. Let's get to it.
Now, you can't just go filling those spaces on the page, just any old way, ya know. The idea is to have a direction to go in. Somewhere to point yourself in. a goal.
In this case, the case of artists and writers filling space, our goal is to tell a story. But what story? what's it about? Who's in it? Why should we care? These are questions that must all be answered. But not today... We're gonna talk about the spine.
What? The thing that they print the title and the name on? That bit of glue that holds the pages in? The thing that holds the story together? Sort of... The spine is the framework, or the foundation on which you build your story. If the spine of the story is strong, it will bear the weight of your story. Yeah, it's the thing that holds the story together. Here's the best way I've found to get a strong spine for a story.
Let's assume you basically know what sort of story you want to tell. Sit down, and put it all on paper. Just sit down and pour it all out there. Next, put it away. I mean, don't look at it, or even TOUCH the story for a month. When the entire month (no cheating! heh...) has passed, pick it back up and read it out loud. That's right, out loud.
You've got to hear it with fresh ears. The dialogue, and actions have GOT to make sense. The best way to do this is to read it so you can hear it. If it doesn't sound right when you say it, it's not going to sound right when someone else reads it, dig?
Next, start over. Simplify the story. Take your story down to its most basic elements. This is what I like to call the spine or the frame of the story. I prefer "spine", as it suggests that it's not only the story's strength, but that it supports something that lives and breathes. That's important. If the spine of your story is strong, you can build on that foundation and it will be able to bear the weight.
Now, read it out loud again. Does it make more sense? Does it state the things you want to say clearly? Hopefully, this will indeed be the case. If it doesn't meet those criteria, do it again. Keep doing it until it makes sense, and states the things you want to say clearly. And do it out loud. Trust me on this. Say the words out loud.
Is it smoother than it was before? If you had to, could you describe what the story is about (without telling the actual story) in two sentences? Would you feel comfortable reading your story out loud in front of someone else?
Well, then... Now, you've got a spine.
When you've done that, smooth it all out, while re-complicating it, so to speak. Y'know, add the dialogue, descriptions, all the nasty little details. Now, read it out loud... Again. Does it still make sense? Does it say the things you want it to say? Do the sentences flow better now? You may end up simplifying and re-complicating your story many different times. You may end up with something on the first few. It's going to be a bit different for everyone, and that's ok. After all, it's you doing the story, and not Clive Barker or Joe R. Landsdale. You've got to be, and probably are your own worst critic. Be brutal with yourself if you have to be. But make that story the very best that you can make it. Othe people are going to be seeing this, you know. Make it the best.
I've used this technique on many a story, and it's yielded many good results. I took the basic way that the Beatles wrote many of their songs, and applied it to writing prose, rhythmic prose and poetry. I'm serious as a heart attack, here. It really works! Now, you've got a story. What to do with it? Ah... That's where the artist comes in. We'll talk about that next time. And I want all you writers to pay close attention to it, ok? "Baywatch" will still be there when you've finished. I promise. heh...
(The contents of "The Empty Spaces" do not neccessarily reflect those of COMICON.com, it's managers, members, friends or relatives, and are solely those of Bradly E. Peterson, who is, quite frankly, a bit off. All contents are © 1998 Bradly E. Peterson, and should not be used without permission, but ask and ye shall recieve. He's easy, that guy. "The Empty Spaces" is a Psychodrama Press production, and let's just leave it at that.)
Bradly E. Peterson
"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds"
(Albert Einstein) http://www.fastlane.net/homepages/drama/
[This message has been edited by Bradly E Peterson (edited 11-23-98).]