Surpassing the limitations of time, space and imagination or how to find a story line without really trying.

In the few short years I have actively participated in NaNoWriMo, I have discovered that the greatest cause of distress within every NaNo-Head was an actual storyline.  What do I write? I can’t think of anything to write. How can I do this? I have no story.  And it is at this point when the awesomeness of NaNo takes hold, but it doesn’t have to be this way, if you can remember this one simple thing: A story line is non-essential.

Okay, now breath. It’s true. A story line is non-essential, because this is a challenge of numbers, not plots. Now I should explain. With NaNo, you have to write 50, 000 words in 30 days.  There simply is no time to worry about plot.  November writing should be about word count, not plot, but so many authors get trapped in the necessity of story line, without realizing that if you simply just start writing, the rest will follow.

That’s the beauty of story lines: they find their way into your paragraphs, without your knowledge. And before you know it, while you are stressing over your word count, and whether or not you will achieve 50,000 words of what must be the absolute biggest pile of drivel (at least in your mind) one person could produce, a story line appears. And everything is right in the world.

But what happens when it’s not November?

Really, good books are not about plots, but about people. Every book, every movie you have ever watched, you have enjoyed because of the characters, not exactly the story line. Why yes, we wanted to see Frodo throw the ring into the fires of Mount Doom in Mordor, and we wanted to find out what created the dome over Chester’s Mill, but we would not be interested if we were not engaged in an emotional relationship with the characters. Your characters and their interactions are the story.  The action just allows that information to become evident to the audience. Getting from Point A to Point B really doesn’t matter. Do our every day lives have a plot? No. Getting from Point A to Point B isn’t really an issue either. The issue is how do we, as people or characters in our own every day life stories, handle these situations and react.

The story is in the in-between.

If I tell you I went to a concert in downtown one evening, would you care? I went from my house to the arena. Point A to Point B. That’s the plot. That’s where I am going and where I left from. That’s the main premise of this blog story line. I went to a concert one night. Okay great, but do you care? Not really.

But when I begin to tell you I got lost in the parking deck, couldn’t find a store that had boxed wine, got off on the WRONG exit on the tram, ended up in a seedy section of town, crossed two parking lots and then ended up in the back stage area of the arena, after pissing myself because I was laughing so hard at the insanity that had ensued on this simple trip–THAT is the story. That is what keeps the reader engaged and wanting to read on.

You see, story lines will create themselves, so when you begin to write your story, there is no need to have everything mapped out. All you need is just an idea: I went to a concert. Frodo is given a ring to destroy. A dome cuts off a Maine town from the rest of the world. What happens to the people, how they handle it, how they behave, what they do: that is the meat of your story and will actually create your plot line for you. So really, when you begin, you need two plot points: Point A and Point B. From there, your characters will fill in the rest.

So, just breath. Start typing words, even if they don’t make sense. And keep typing. Type recipes. Write a drabble about your favorite toy as child. Take a situation from that very day and rewrite it, so that it now plays out to suit your fancy. But most importantly, just type. Editing is where you can work on the plot, if you really must. But stories are based on the characters, not the situations. So just write a sentence, then another. Pretty soon you will think you have a complete pile of literary poo, but the story will begin to form. The characters will develop and you’ll know what is going to happen. When you’re done, you will have a story line.