So much for getting myself organized. After recovering from my drive home from Florida, today I heard that my one remaining sister is in the hospital, having suffered a stroke. I haven't been able to complete a blog to post today, so this is a rerun from March 2010.
I keep coming up with ways ‘real life’ can be analogous to writing. Well, give me a break; real life has conspired to give me a head cold for the trip home, and all my thoughts are sticky with ‘head cold goo’ and won’t move around well.
So, I started out in Florida, where nobody paid attention to the posted speed limit of 70. The far left lane (of 3) was for those driving at 80+. Then I got to Georgia, where the Florida Speedway quickly became the Georgia Parking Lot – miles of stop / creep / stop / creep. I forget how many times it happened, pretty much the entire length of I75 through Georgia, except going through Atlanta. And seldom, when you finally got to the point where you could speed up, was there any clue for the jam.
Did you know that if you enter Nashville on I24, and want to leave Nashville on I24, there is no lane you can get in and stay in and stay on I24? I felt like I was playing hop scotch; skip left two lanes for a left exit, skip right one lane for a right exit, skip right another lane for another right exit, then skip left two lanes for a left exit!
Stories are kind of like that, don’t you think? If there’s nothing getting in the protagonist’s way as you tell the story, the story zips along at 80+ mph and gets done quickly, leaving the reader to wonder what all the fuss was about. If something does get in the way – whether you call them bumps, problems, challenges, or stalled trucks – the speed of the story will be inconsistent, and the tension will build. Likewise, if your story line jogs here and there, as your protagonist tries this angle, and then that path, it will help to keep your reader on their toes, wondering which way the story will go next, and will the protagonist actually get where he wants to go?
So, ‘map’ out your story line, and don’t forget to add some difficulties. Road trips never seem to go as smoothly as we expect they will, do they? A story that travels a straight line to its obvious conclusion isn’t much of a story.