On space in the brainmeats for stories to form

I’m having trouble with the current work in progress. It’s book three of a trilogy and it’s very exciting, but I’m struggling. There are prerequisites that can not be avoided. The climax needs to outdo the ends of book one and two. There are many threads and characters that need to come together and be tied up. Of course, not every single thing will be wrapped up nice and neat – life most certainly isn’t like that, so fiction doesn’t need to be either. But certain areas of closure are essential.

I also want to tie up a whole bunch of things, to weave my exciting narratives into a coherent whole greater than the sum of its parts. Even seemingly small or passing events in books one and two are actually serious catalysts to the events in the whole arc of the story. As that entire arc will only become apparent in book three, so will the small and seemingly irrelevant occurrences along the way. Plus, I’ve been having ideas of new things I want to fit in, because they’re cool ideas and I want to get the bastards into the narrative one way or another.

But all of this together means I feel like I’m mentally juggling balls of flaming jelly with turds inside. It’ll be seriously messy and potentially quite dangerous if I fuck up and drop one. And there are slippery eels of ideas swimming through the air between my flaming jelly turd balls. Told you it was messy. Those eel-like ideas keep coming and going and when I think of one part of the story, an earlier eel slips away. So I grab it and that later idea starts to roam off looking for wood elves to eat or something. Such is the nature of trying to manage a whole story in one lump of brain meat that is barely up to the task.

So I need me some space, to let the story marinate in the old brain gravy. Life is a very distracting thing at the best of times. I’ve got a kung fu academy to run, with all the associated paraphernalia of a small business. I’ve got a wife and family and friends to think of and, of course, there’s Twitter. Basically, life is a massive, swirling array of distractions and that’s the same for everyone. But we writers need clear thinking space. Often I’ll be sitting on the couch, supposedly watching a movie or something, but actually staring at the wall and muttering to myself. My wife has grown used to this – she knows it’s a story forming from the bubbling mess of my depleted mind and she rightly ignores it. But we often need proper space, truly uncluttered, no distractions thinking space.

Different writers have different methods for finding that space. Some go for long walks, some go for a swim, some do the vacuuming and so on. It basically boils down to getting thoroughly involved in something menial and often physical, so we are occupied but our brains are free to roam. Those kind of tasks mean we get to avoid distraction, and the old story can percolate away and ideas swim to the surface and gasp for air. Where we grab them and pin them into a note book for later use.

My favourite method of providing that space in my brainmeats is going out for a motorcycle ride. The process of riding, of concentrating on the road and enjoying the wide open spaces and the wind in my face, is something that occupies my hindbrain thoroughly, while leaving my forebrain and subconscious free to do the dance of creation. That’s when I can do that mental juggling and let the ideas solidify, the various plot threads tie together, the characters to reveal their true needs and motivations. And that’s what I need now with this third book of a trilogy.

Thankfully, it’s a beautiful, sunny autumn day out there, so I’m off. If I don;t get it all thunk out today, I’ll just have to go out for another ride another day. Shut up, I’m working.

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2 thoughts on “On space in the brainmeats for stories to form

  1. Hope it all comes together, Alan. Don’t fancy having to clean up the mess of flaming jelly turd balls. May the brain gravy prove a lovely marinade.

  2. It’s coming together slowly. Might take a few rides yet though. Mowing the lawn, vacuuming, walking the dog – they all qualify. I do them all, but for me, motorbike rides are the best.

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