marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

begin in the middle, figure out the end, then complete the beginning. . .

"'Begin at the beginning,' the King said gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'"

Perhaps good advice when describing your morning or something, but not when writing a story.  Because you do not start with whatever you choose.

Patricia C. Wrede had a nice blog post on recently (here):  just because the character's wants and desires will drive the plot in the finished story doesn't mean that you start with them.  How very true it is.  You can start with all sorts of things.  It can be a desire.  Although in my experience that desire often comes isolated and needs to be built up.  Let us say a woman wants to be a doctor in a country where one temple controls the process, and her impious father has raised her to scorn it.  That does not tell you much about the woman even though it has the two driving forces of the plot right there.  Or an event.  A man's father tries to make a deal with the devil, featuring him, and it goes awry.  Or just an image:  a hooded cape and a mask floating in mid-air, moving as if under the direction of a mind, except that when the wind blows, the cape flaps like a flag and you can see there's no invisible body.

The fun part, of course, is that very rarely does it tell you whether it's an inciting incident, or one in the middle, and if the later, how far in.  You have to persuade it to put out shoots either way to build up the story -- and sometimes you realize those sprouting events are backstory after all.  And if you work at it, you can get separate ideas to interweave, if they fit each other -- limiting the number of stories you work on and giving more impetus to the story.  (I find events tend to feature early in the story.  After all, if I don't know what to do next, I might as well chuck it in.  To be sure, that means the bulk of the story has to be drawn out after.)

Ending images/events/desires are easier to recognize but still need to grow up into the structure.  In some ways they are harder because you know how things will turn out and have to think about it as if you were as ignorant as the characters.
Tags: backstory, beginnings, endings, idea development, middles, motivations, plot twist

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