I don’t know if it’s the French press of coffee I drank this morning, or if it’s due to my zesty little green Moleskine notebook, but the ideas? Are flowing. Flooding, even. (I prefer to imagine this flood is made of Fiji artesian water, FYI.)
Guess that just goes to show that with a little time and a little thought, ideas are everywhere, just waiting to be acknowledged.
As many of you are already aware, I’m taking part in Merrilee Faber’s Creativity Workshop, which began this week. (If you’re in the dark on this, click here.) A few days ago, I set some general goals — now, it’s time to streamline them into measurable (and thus, achievable) goals. That’s where this whole idea flood comes in.
We’re to write three sets of short stories, four stories in each set. That’s one story per week, for twelve weeks straight. Knowing myself, I know this pace could flip from stretching to breakneck in an instant if I’m not prepared. So, I went ahead and outlined some concrete ideas to work with for each set.
PS: If you’re reading this on a reader with a white background, there are a few lines of light green, under the lime green, that may be easier to see on mine (which has a dark gray background).
Weeks 2 – 5
Powerlessness over irreparable circumstances
In the first set, I decided to write about people who find themselves in circumstances over which they have no power, but nonetheless make futile attempts to fix things. I plan to use nursery rhymes as inspiration. In each story, I want contrast to be essential in my character development: characters who have similar motives, yet manifest opposite actions. (For example, two characters who both feel love, but show it in completely different ways.) Here’s the breakdown for each week, with the irreparable aspect listed first, followed by its nursery rhyme inspiration:
Week #2 | A shattered egg | “Humpty, Dumpty”
Week #3 | Something that has burned to ash. | “Ladybug, Ladybug”
Week #4 | Severed tails. | “Little Bo Peep”
Week #5 | Love interrupted by nature and time; waiting. | “Sailing, Sailing”
Weeks 6 – 9
Stories inspired by songs about birds
One of the goals I mentioned in the last post was that I want to write stories inspired by song lyrics. Well, there’s no shortage of good material there, so I decided to narrow it down a little bit more. Even so, I’m having trouble narrowing five choices down to four, so I’ll list the four I’m 97% sure about, and then put the fifth idea last. I chose these songs because I think they’ll work well in a set together. Other than the bird theme, they deal with broken wings, hope despite adversity, captivity, and freedom. To challenge myself, I’m choosing two I never heard before this morning, though the rest are old favorites. Here’s the plan for Set #2, with song title/artist followed by its general theme.
Week #6 | “Blackbird” (Lennon/McCartney) | Spreading broken wings
Week #7 | “Top of the World” (Patty Griffin) | Wings broken by someone else
Week #8 | “Two Birds” (Regina Spektor) | Love, but tied to someone who won’t fly
Week #9 | “Bird of the Summer” (A Fine Frenzy) | Letting love fly away, hoping it returns
Possible Option | “Still Fighting It” (Ben Folds) | Wants to keep love, but sets free with no expectation of it returning
Weeks 10 – 13
Grimm Fairy Tale, “One Eyes, Two Eyes, Three Eyes”
My first two sets, you may have noticed, have the potential to be kind of heavy. I don’t plan to make them all heavy, but nonetheless, the potential is there. For the last set of the workshop, I’m going to gear things more toward FUN! (Yes, an all-caps, shouty version of fun.) My mother is an expert at story-telling. When we were little, she’d make up versions of “Little One Eyes, Little Two Eyes, and Little Three Eyes,” coming up with some crazy plots on the spot. They were entertaining, and were usually about how spoiled Little One Eyes and Little Three Eyes ganged up on their ‘perfect’ sister, Little Two Eyes. Her version is a universe away from Grimm’s original, and I’m thinking mine will be a universe away from both of these.
In this set, I’m going to try some new things while I have fun. This whole set will focus on these young sisters. I want to do futuristic/fantasy/mystery here, and experiment with other POVs.
Week #10 | Tell a story in 3rd person omniscient
Week #11 | Write in first person, from the perspective of Little Two Eyes
Week #12 | Write in first person, from the perspective of Little One Eyes
Week #13 | Write in 3rd person limited, focusing on Little Three Eyes
Though I have specific starting points for each set, and even for each story, I’ve hardly given any thought toward what each will actually BE when it’s time to sit down and write them. Between that, and my all-encompassing goal to make a schedule and stick to it, my task list is the same for each week, unless I discover the need to amend it along the way. If I need to amend it, I’ll wait until the end of the current set, then make new ones for the set that comes next.
Weeks 2 – 13
Spend one hour, five days per week, devoted to that week’s project.
Days one and two: use ideas I already have as inspiration, come up with actual characters, plot, setting, and other necessary details. Begin writing on Day 2.
Days three through five: Write, without distractions, for the entire hour. No Twitter, no blog, no browsers open. Aim for 750-1,000 words each day.
Devote extra time as needed on Day 6 if I have not completed the story.
(Wow. Long post, dudes. Now that I have ideas in mind, I’m even more excited about this workshop. Thinking about it in concrete terms is a bit overwhelming, so I’m not going to think about The Big Picture right now. One day at a time. “Bird by Bird,” to borrow the title of Anne Lamott’s book, which — I’ve heard — is fantastic.)(Perhaps I’ll read it, oh, fourteen weeks from now.)