Hi Gang. Craig here, and you get me twice this week.
I was on vacation when I wrote this post. It will go live shortly after I return to my paycheck job. I’d just put in a decent day of writing (2000 words) when the topic came to me.
My way of writing a book isn’t for everyone, but I share here because it might work for some of you. I’ve detailed my storyboard way of outlining to death at Story Empire, but there really is more to it.
Storyboarding is the macro thought process. It involves the big turning points of my story, then breaks down into smaller accomplishments my heroes have to make to stick the landing.
I have index cards for each section, but those usually have one goal along the path. Everything else that happens I come up with while free writing. This is the micro thought process.
I hate to do this to you, but my most recent example is the best way I know to explain it. On the last index card, my pirates had to fail to gain any useful information, then escape from a storm powered by a monster, (who may actually be a god).
The next index card involves sailing to a mysterious island and actually gaining some of the information they failed to gather at the last place. That’s all the outline I have, and it’s time for some micro-thinking.
At the island of Kiriwina, they got into an altercation with the junior and senior members of the Fulminites. They experienced first-hand the horrors of the exploding monks, barely escaping into the looming storm. (That was the preceding card, and you can see that I fleshed things out a bit.)
They fled the monster/god storm for weeks, which I didn’t detail every moment of. I used this opportunity to heal the wounded, explore some of my main character’s personal history via a vision brought to him by St. Elmo’s fire, and cleared the decks of some marauding sea creatures. That’s micro-thinking. None of it was on my index cards.
Once they reached the floating island of Bungo Bungo, the only goal I have is to learn this tidbit of information that moves my plot along. However, Bungo Bungo is an interesting place and is worthy of its own adventure.
I decided it’s actually the floating skull of some long dead creature (Possibly another god who’s passed on). Because it floats, it’s populated by vegetation and creatures from all over the world. This gave me the chance for some fun world building (Important in a fantasy) and allowed me to do a kind of call back to a monster from volume one of the trilogy. It’s a neat stitch.
I introduced some cool creatures, including butterflies that are pure water. Bungo Bungo is high on magic, and it could have something to do with the dead creature whose skull is floating around. Fantasy needs small elements in it along with those gigantic monsters. Then I added some completely new creatures that are somewhat tribal. I hesitate to call them monsters, because they seem pretty benign right now.
My micro-thoughts have about five adventures that could happen on Bungo Bungo, but they need to flow properly. Some will wind up on the scrap room floor, no doubt, but others will make it into the book.
One of the fun things to do is assess how existing and well known characters will address this new stimulus. I have one who likes to see new things with almost childlike wonder, one who is likely to shoot first, and others who enjoy poking things with sticks and laughing about it. It’s my job to decide which ones will get a scene or two as they explore the island.
I stopped for the day right after the callback monster announced his presence. Micro-thinking deserves a bit of time, but now that I have some parameters established, and the end goal in mind, I can weave the other bits together.
These other bits add words, which I always need, and develop character along the way. As long as they eventually reach the cave (actually the interior of the skull) and learn the important plot piece, I can go anywhere I like with this.
The micro-thinking process is one of my favorite parts of being a writer. If you think about the index cards as mile markers along my route, the micro thinking is what you see out the windows along the way.
Do any of you write this way? Do you ever get distracted by side plots? I know some who have notebooks, others who free write, and still others with detailed outlines. How big of a role does micro-thinking play in your own stories? I’d love to hear from you, so leave me some comments.