This is the crux of writing isn’t it? Well creative writing, fiction, poems and the like. Generating ideas and turning it into a “something”. This is one of those things that sets us apart from other animals, in that we can get ideas beyond our instant needs or requirements, and take them somewhere. Build them into a different thing. Something that speaks to our minds, or if you want to put it this way, our hearts and souls. Fundamentally, writing about “a something” derives from two functions. Having an idea, and the ability to turn that idea into that which communicates with people. Both can be tough. Especially the first part.
In having less time to spend on writing lately, I’ve begun to evaluate the different facets of it, and how I do it. What are my strengths? What works for me? What doesn’t work for me? These are the sort of questions I’m asking. Ideas might be examined in different forms. For simplicity, I first thought about the context of smaller projects, with the initial idea as it appears, and a little on how that idea is expanded on.
I’ve been asked a few times about how I work the 15 minute poem exercise, which is not to say I am an expert, but that the results, for the allotted time, have been decent, at least on some occasions. Or at least interesting on some occasions. For me it is a fun exercise, which involves some focus, but also allows the dropping of some boundaries, which in real terms means, “opens up the subject matter which I can write about, to anything”. Usually I do not sit at the notebook / blog with entirely a blank slate. I will usually have a prompt first. This prompt comes from many places. It might be a phrase I read, the name of a book or song, or the name of an episode of a tv show. Regular readers will know that I took got two poems from the name of an episode of the eighties animated show “Spiderman and friends”. The first because I misheard the name of the episode, and the second where I then decided to use the correct name.
Having the prompt, I then can begin. Sometimes I have the prompt for several hours prior to the writing, during which I might (or might not) think of the odd idea. I try not to think of actual lines of the poem unless a strong line pops into my head, mainly because I like the exercise of doing it at the time, within the time limit. Other times, I just have the prompt only, and sit down to begin.
With that in mind, I will then think for a minute or two, usually not more, of what the prompt might mean to me, or what might be a good angle to approach it. For example with the prompt “Knights and Demons“, It made me think of what might make a person be a knight, and head off from there. The line with the naughty word pretty much appeared at the beginning so that set a tone. Married with the other idea, I set off to see what came out. In this instance, I did not want to tell a direct story such as a knight vs a specific demon, but that was where I was at the time. Another day another idea. Possibly.
To me it seems odd, but quite quickly I normally have an idea or two for a mini story (which may be a story thematically), and the means to tell it is then spread across how many verses it may be. For example, I might be thinking of four or five verses of four lines. Perhaps each line has a certain amount of syllables. Or perhaps I want a couple of large verses. It depends what I feel at the time, so I write to that. Maybe add or remove a verse, change up some words here or there, occasionally change the structure as something better has come out. I think of the main beats of the story and map it to the verses. For example, verse one the character asks a question or has a revelation. Verse two, something that relates to it. The final verse, adds a conclusion or switches it by asking a further question. And that is pretty much it. Working to the time limit I can “hit the story” pretty quickly. So far I don’t feel I have anything unfinished, although I do think on some I could add more if I wished to do so. A sort of directors cut.
Thinking about this now, I do not know why this works for me. My mind doesn’t go blank, I have virtually the opposite of a blank slate. If this was a larger project, I would dawdle along. Perhaps it is the allotted time limit. Perhaps I need to start doing things like this on my larger projects e.g. 15 minutes on ideas only. 15 minutes on the specifics of a scene. Something to experiment with? Perhaps.
Where do your ideas start from on smaller projects, e.g. poems, short fiction or blog pieces (I will save longer fiction for another time)?
Lexicon word of the day: parsimonious.