Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The "Platform" that holds up your "Work In Progress"

I've always been fascinated by oil rigs in the ocean.

The ocean is amazing. She is vast, beautiful, dangerous, tempting, scary, inviting and unpredictable.

And an oil rig is this dinky looking thing in the middle of this vast terrain of danger sucking oil through a straw. And when the ocean has a temper tantrum, for the most part, these dinky little things hold up.

Solitary Oil Rig In The Arabian Sea

I've watched what the ocean can do -- at any time, to anything. Yet, these oil rigs survive.

Sometimes I think of my work-in-progress as an oil rig. Often, people focus on the "stuff" that sits on the platform. And some dress it up with clever plot twists, settings, detailed back stories, and conflicts... but what about the "thing" that actually keeps the platform steady and unwavering? What about the foundation?

For me, the foundation is the story. My stories are character driven -- this does not imply no plot. Indeed they coexist. So far, I have not found a way to separate the two -- the plot is what happens to the characters in the context of the story. My stories are about people being placed in a situations that calls for them to become more than was expected -- about testing the will of my characters to rise to the occasion.

I have thought up a lot of promising ideas -- I have pages and pages of notes that may never materialize into anything. You see, I've learned from the mistakes of the past. Writing a full-length novel, like the ocean, puts a lot of stress and strain on the story... and sometimes, the story buckles.

Writing a great story, although difficult and challenging, should be fun. You should love the tale your about to tale so much that all the challenges and exhaustion that sets in does not alter your passion for the story. A lot of unpredictable things comes our way. But if the story's not great, and bad things happen (and they will), we get trapped in revision hell. The process is no longer fun. Instead it's painful.

The way I see it, we write because there's something we want to share with others. It's important to tell that story in the best possible way. If built on the right foundation, your characters, settings, dialogue, and everything else will hum true.

"It's about the story, and it's always about the story." ~ Stephen King -- On Writing

How do you test your story's foundations? What questions do you ask your story to see if she'll hold up the trials and tribulations known as writing?

Fight the good fight.


  1. Interesting that you compared oil platforms to writing. I've never seen that done before.

  2. The way I see it, each is a process of finding something that's already there. A story already exists, the writer and the writing process try to extract that story so that others can consume it and benefit from it.


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