Madeleine Robins

May 6, 2011

Let Them Have Their Say

Filed under: Craft,Short Stories,Writing — madeleinerobins @ 11:47 AM

In the last year I have finished and turned in two books.  Because the watchword of writing is “What have you done for me lately,” I immediately started thinking of new things to write.  I have ideas for more Sarah Tolerance books; I have a fantasy set in contemporary San Francisco I’d like to write.  And I have half a dozen short stories I want/need to get going on.

I chose one of the short stories to begin with.  Writing a book (for me) requires research and a good deal of forethought, though I very often start writing and see where it takes me, then step back, get my bearings, and then do the research and plotting work.  Short stories are, by their nature, more contained, smaller and more focused in scope.  That’s a mixed blessing, because as a short story writer I’m always aware of the need to cut out the extraneous, no matter how beguiling it is.

So I’m working on this story–steampunk, set in pre-WWI London.  Two key characters have just met, and they’re talking about stuff.  It’s important stuff, but my God, the way these two guys natter on.  I keep trying to rein them in, get them to get to the point, they keep going on and on.  Getting them to stick to the material I need covered by the story is like trying to herd a bunch of preschoolers through the Museum of Natural History.  And I feel like I can’t get on with the story until I’ve gotten them through the conversation, so I feel stalled.

The problem, really, is that I’m being a stick in the mud, and I need to stop it. I need to let these characters have their conversation, say everything they want to say, no matter how tangential to the point I want them to make.  And then, because I have the power of revision, I can go back and take out whatever nattering doesn’t enhance the story.

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