creative process (narratology) The approaches and methods for successfully creating story and narrative. To be a creative writer you need to develop yourself and your skills as a storyteller and this requires a range of elements:
story material + storytelling skills + writing skills +
personal viewpoint = a creative storyteller
Starting: Having an Idea and Developing it into a Story
Gathering Material You Will Have a Story: This is a conscious active gathering and storage of material. Remembering stories, telling stories, making notes, studying narrative. Taking time to think about stories. Never just waiting or hoping for an idea to appear, but working to be a storyteller and then achieving this as a writer. You Won’t Have a Story: If you don’t have material then you have nothing to create stories with: the cupboard is bare. If you have a blank, no ideas, the solution is to research for stories: go out and gather material. No story material to use equals no story. Sometimes people think about being ‘a writer’ this is not gathering material as a basis for creating stories.
Mulling Over: Cogitating You Will Have a Story: Giving time to thinking to mulling over vague thoughts for a story: an idea for a character, a single story event that might link to others, a setting. Here, jig-sawing ideas, rearranging vague ideas for stories will produce ideas that can be developed to produce complete stories. You Won’t Have a Story: Waiting hoping for a story to emerge without working with any material will lead to no idea or a weak copy of a familiar story idea that’s already been done: the unoriginal idea. Yes, there is the moment of inspiration, but this happens because your thinking has been turning over your ideas and at a point, like kindling for a fire, the effort pays off, there’s a spark. The sustained thinking about ideas, having story material is needed for the sudden bright idea.
The Moment of Inspiration: It’s Just an Idea You Will Have a Story: Understanding that the first idea, the moment of inspiration, is only a notion, not a complete story. If you understand that the story needs work and what it needs to make a story: what elements are missing, then you understand your idea and you recognize what it needs for full complete story: all the story elements of characters, plot, theme, beginning, middle, end. You Won’t Have a Story: The sudden idea, the moment of inspiration is not the story. It’s a long way off. Having an idea might seem like enough, so that the work seems nearly finished, but then the idea is never developed into a full story. This is where most stories falter and ideas stick. Someone can say ‘I have an idea for a story’, they offer a beginning, a notion, a character, then its over in a few words. At moment of inspiration no idea is rejected: this idea might become a complete, but the basic idea can’t seem like a good story idea forever. Holding an idea, thinking it’s a story results in no story to tell or a story that’s so thin that there’s no development, no complete narrative: vague events on the page.
Developing the Idea: You Will Have a Story: After you have the idea for your story you work to develop it: keeping to the aim of making a story, perhaps by now a story for a specific medium: book, play, script, comic book, radio play, television series, web series. You Won’t Have a Story: There is the mistake of thinking you have a ‘story’ but it is only vague ideas, scattered events without a plot linked story, not a well-structured and dynamic narrative. Developing is gathering enough events, characters, setting for a full story. If the idea isn’t developed there’s no story. Here is where ideas that don’t develop need to be put aside and when they aren’t set aside then development stalls. Writers trap themselves by staying with a fixed idea: ‘this is a great idea for a story’, but its not because its not developing.
Finishing: Structuring and Writing the Story You do have a story: Using storytelling knowledge to structure a dramatic story. This is where an understanding of what makes a story dramatic is needed; conflict, rising action, climax, resolution: the structuring of the story material, the pre-story gives shape to an undeveloped story making it well told and as dramatically effective as possible. Here you will focus on a story for a particular medium, because they tell stories in different ways. You don’t have a story: Pre-story is where you have events for a story, but the dramatic structure is not clarified. A story can be told with different story structures, viewpoints, and the different versions of events, but so far the scenes have not been written. A story can be badly structured, poorly told, with long sections of dull events, and story can even have essential limitations, its not that dramatic or involving. Here decisions have to be: this is a strong well developed and structured story, or it’s a weak, underdeveloped, uninvolving story. After so much work its often hard to accept that a story is not good enough, that its dull or ineffective, but stories need to drop or need to be re-developed because you may have a sort of story, but it’s a weak story that should be better told or restarted from scratch.
The Full Story: A Complete Narrative You do have a story: A full story with setting, characters, plot and theme. This is a story and no longer an idea. Here you have planning, notes, material you can use. Research is being done. You are ready to write because you have the story: characters, plot, theme, structure. You don’t have a story: At the first ideas stage, when there is only an idea for a story, there can be a dash to write, to tell the story in full; writing the start of book or the start of a screenplay. This might work and produce a full story, but it’s more likely to result in the unfinished book, the unfinished script. If you write before you are ready the storytelling will lack clarity, what you write will be overwritten because the page numbers increase but there are no story events. Some writers do not want to plan extensively, but then these writers often have an established setting for their stories, they are using a character or type of character they have used before, or they work within a particular genre. Yes, its possible to write from an idea, but you do not know if you are telling an effective story. It’s possible to write description, action and dialogue all without a dramatic story. At this stage, if there’s a book or a screenplay in full, then its often hard for the writer to accept that what they have taken so much effort to write is not good enough, but this is what needs to be done. When your starting out as a storyteller it more effective to plan and develop ideas when they can easily be changed. A writer who is uncritical of their story can easily write a failed or ineffective story.
Writing the Story You do have a story: Your writing, editing and proofing skills will enable you to write a story to a professional standard. The division between storytelling and writing is like the division between composing and performing, designing the product and successfully manufacturing the product. The story establishes what needs to be told and the writing is the business of producing it to a format and a standard that is professional. You don’t have a story: A weak story can be well written with polished sentences, perfect style, grammar and punctuation. Here there is a weak story and while it may read well, what is said is clear it isn’t a structured dramatic story. The novel has more leeway for an unstructured story while the play or film has to be dramatically effective. A book can drift and the reader can skim, but when a film or play looses its focus then its no good: its like the orchestra loosing the tune: the audience for a performed work can more easily see when it doesn’t make sense of its lots coherence.
Its hard for the storyteller to write a whole work and then consider it a failure that should be left in the cupboards, but its likely that the publisher, producer, and then finally the reader or the audience will decide if it’s a good story.
Copyright: Eugene Doyen 2019