Themes, Ideas and Characters

originally posted by George


Do you plan your novels in relation to the end point you are trying to make? What I mean is, are your novels so structured such that every major scene and plot twist is already planned and you write the "filler" around those scenes or do you start the story at a point and let it grow organically in accordance with your imagination?

I have a couple of ideas for novels but when i consider my own paltry ideas to yours i feel almost overwhelmed! (And words are my business! *laugh*)

It seems to me that you really are the Storyteller in as much that you KNOW where the story is going and that all things are more or less "foreordained". In my own mind i have some very vivid scenes that I want to write about and I already have some characters in mind, but I have not fleshed out the 'full' story in my own mind so as to put pen to paper effectively.

Is it advisable to just sit down and let it flow and write what comes or to take a more structured approach?

Kind Regards

originally posted by Cheryl

I'm not Janny but I was at that point a few months ago. I just started writing it down before I lost the story. I had learned nothing at that time then I started studying things and learning how it's done and still writing the story. I just got a way to conclude it the other day and now I think I can see the full story. I think the characters will force their way through the more heavily you write. If I stop for a few days I've lost it again and have to get it back. Just thought I'd help with my beginning experience so far. I hope I don't get stuck that's my main worry now.

George - you asked.

Cheryl's way is a pretty good start.

I'd begin here: write where the passion is. If you have that scene, dying to get out, let it out of the box! Just create those fragments, put them in the box and see.

They will eventually go in the right directions, and fill in material will happen.

I have found this: if you DON'T write what's in that mental in box - the muse in you assumes you don't care…and doesn't replace the material with subsequent material. Also: the scene you get in a blinding burst of inspiration NEVER comes back! (for me, anyway) it's a one way ride. Do it, or lose it. I choose to do it - the few I've lost, I've always mourned. They don't regenerate with the same bang.

In any story - you always start with a seed. Who says it's rigid and MUST be the beginning. Sometimes it may be - sometimes it may be the end. Sometimes it's the middlebit. Does it Matter? Creativity is NOT ANAL - it begins in the head, not the fundament, and, contrary to legend, it is not organized. Creativity is INSPIRATIONAL - which means, it is NOT LINEAR.

It starts at this point and JUMPS or LEAPS the intuitive gap - and lands - elsewhere.

This is not a linear process…so, if you expect to control the leap, go do accounting, where the math has to add up.

Creativity - the math may add up, but it will Always be hindsight vision…you are venturing INTO the unknown and bringing something out. It is not KNOWN beforehand - after, yes, it is.

Treating a story idea as a concrete thought FIRST is not creativity.

Storywriting is inherently intuitive and creative - so - you have to LEAP from somewhere. You start with whatever you have on your plate that intrigues you and you just - go with it.

Security people, or control freaks, who insist on knowing each step are never going to get anywhere. You don't KNOW with intuition. Creativity is not by its nature the same as LOGIC. If you are uncomfortable with the Unknown - you can't create. Because bringing in something NEW is the epitome of voyaging into the unknown. Or its not new. Books survive by suspense - bingo - drawing a reader INTO the unknown to find out what happens.

You are the first pioneer on the trail. Some people are not, inherently, pioneers - and hence, not story writers.

They can do ad copy - not story.

A very large idea - a very complex tale such as mine do not happen on one leap…it is millions of leaps, millions of creative intuitive "jumps" and then seeing the order of them AFTERWARD.

I began with a seed idea: two characters, two gifts, a conflict of Light and Shadow, wherein, the usual approach was not going to follow stereotype.

It grew - more characters, more ideas, more layers. As I wrote the scenes on Dascen Elur, I kept finding more bits and more breadth - Athera happened, by fragmentary moments of vision. I wrote down EVERYTHING I got in mind, no matter HOW little it seemed to "follow" the simple first seed of the idea.

I had jillions of notes of future scenes. Fourth and Fifth arc, by this date, about 80 pages EACH of written scenes, set into chronological order in files with, now, an outline setting the interrim actions in place…those future scenes are there, just waiting for when I get to them, Little stepping stones, or big ones, each one a jewel, intact.

I started with an idea, and two characters. In six months, I had a skeletion outline of the whole series. For about bout 7 years, I had scenes pour in, like rushes of "oh Wow look at This, and see how That connects to That - not in order! - that did or didn't precisely relate. When I wrote them down, I knew where many fitted. Some I didn't. I still have some "one line" fragments that I don't know, yet, where they'll fall. They land at the right point, and fit. Sometimes somebody would ask a question, or a test read would ask a question, or argue a plot point - and "bam" as I 'looked' there, to explore the point, like a map, unfolding, there was the missing structure, already in place to be 'discovered.'

You get those intuitive jumps by getting INTO the material. The bridges ARE being built, but you don't see them. You step off, and they are just - *there* - which truly DOES scare some people.

You don't have a herd, *there* welcoming you - you are off on your own, and that is not 'social' behavior. In fact, in strict survival terms, its 'dangerous ground' - so you have a LOT of inhibitions of just letting fly into nowhere. It got the species killed, as a hunter/gatherer, damn well, so you have some pretty strong survival instincts to NOT GO THERE. Not to mention, 'daydreaming' was not rewarded as a lucrative passtime in your school days! So you got taught, don't, too…


Go anyway…

By about 8 years, I knew I had too much to do as a "first novel" - so I wrote Sorcerer's Legacy, Master of Whitestorm as short stories, Cycle of Fire, Empire, revamped Master of Whitestorm as a novel - all the while working on WoLaS in the background.

I had entire drafts of material well into Grand Conspiracy and Peril's Gate well before I sold Curse of the Mistwraith, which was sold in the US as a finished book.

I still get "scenes" that will occur volumes away. I write them down, put them in a box according to which Story Arc they belong - and now and again, go through and insert them chronologically. By now I KNOW my story. The structure of it is evident, it now just "deepens and heightens" or gains force and sharpness.

But it didn't happen overnight! I began the seed idea for WoLaS in 1972. (Yeah, I was pretty young).

When I saw what the ending would be, I absolutely KNEW I didn't have the 'wisdom, depth and perspective" to write it. No Way!! BUT - I trusted myself enough to know I would when I got there. And stepped into the unknown.

Somewhere in this, something INSIDE you knows the whole story…it doesn't work in linear space, but you do. It doesnt react linearly, though you do.

The only way to catch the leap is to net what you've got. Then it's like dragging a yarn in knit - the rest pulls through in due time. You will have the whole spool, linear, to weave the whole cloth, but you couldn't see it, looking for the sweater!

originally posted by Cheryl

You should see the amount of notepads I have now where I jotted things down that came to me suddenly. I do forget them if not written down right away Janny's right on that. One night I was comfortable in bed and got a character in my head and didn't write him down I thought I'd remember in the morning and it was all gone then.I sort of mourn him since he's all gone now. I won't do that again. He looked interesting and wished I'd have written him down. Thanks for the advice Janny I will listen to it and write it down when it first comes. I'm doing filling in things now too. It's way cool to see the story get more and more detailed. I love the experience whether I ever get published or not it's our own story we've created. Nothing like it in the world. I love muses they are wonderful.

originally posted by George

Janny! I asked and you CERTAINLY did deliver. Thanks for taking the time and verbalising what I intuitively knew but was seeking validation for!

Now all i have to do is find the time to sit down and "let it all out"! I tell you, its been swirling around in here for a little while (*says George pointing to his head*)…it sounds good in my head, but lets just see if it is ok on paper! *laugh*

Thanks for giving my Muse a helping hand! She's revitalised and ready to go!


PS. the words about linear thought…VERY true. School, University and Work seem to whittle your creativity away so that you are taught to only consider what is functional and useful in everyday life. I often find myself seeking to reach the quickest end point and to NOT take the curving and winding road. It is a hard bridle to break away from, but one that I am persistently chaffing at. When i was younger I always thought that I'd GROW OUT of my imagination, yet, my imagination is still there are refuses to go away!No matter how neglected or ignored it may be.

Cheryl, thank you for sharing your thoughts too! :smiley:

originally posted by Cheryl

You're welcome hope you do good on paper. It's much harder then anyone realizes I think anyway. I've learned a lot and hope to keep improving. I find I worry now when my muse is quiet I think come on come on more inspiration please then it comes. I think the more you write the more your muse will open up too. I even thought I was going crazy for awhile there LOL

Astonishing folly, this concensus 'idea' that your imagination is "childish" and to be "grown out of"

It is among the most valuable tool you have - nothing of innovation can happen without it - and no problem can get solved. Every advance in evolution made has happened through creativity - imagination.

I don't get why it's considered a throw away.

We die, we dry up and we rot without it…it's a fundamental human gift, as vital and necessary as compassion…and the source of a whole lot of unhappiness, when repressed.

My take, anyway.

And you're welcome.

originally posted by Ika

Hi janny, and everyone!

I can relate to what Janny said about how inspirational and not linear creativity is. started working on my book two years ago with the raw plots and stages and managed to write them down into one piece, and after blazing through to finish book 2, realized that the ideas in book 2 were fitting for book 1…And vice-versa. It's a never ending process of putting a puzzle together with the pieces coming and coming and the ending not yet in sight. But when I start to write it down, somewhow they'll fit, somewhere. This is how I'm going through it anyway.

It's a crazy process, but I guess feeling right about the story surpasses every other concern.
I got heaps of notes everywhere too, Cheryl!

A close friend of mine told me to stop writing for now and concentrate on studying, which is something i couldn't even conceive of doing…If I ever stop, I'm afraid the story would just die and I'd lose to the flow I've worked on for years. What do you guys think? Any advice on this, anyone?

Thanks, and cheers to all!

Ps: I almost finished reading Peril's Gate (1 subchapter left), but was called back to continue my 2nd term in the university, and I accidentally left the book behind!! It's so frustrating not knowing what happened to arithon after he passed through the first test in the kewar tunnel!!! Home is 8 hours away! *wails*

originally posted by Sandtiger


Good to see you,

I know the feeling about people telling you to concentrate on school, and not worrying about writing. I had that a lot when I did my MBA.

I kept trying to tell them that *writing* wasn't work to me - I enjoyed doing it, and often, I did it because I needed to let off pent up creative juices. I find when I am in a learning environment, I have more ideas - and when I was working on my Masters Thesis, I had a lot of creative thoughts meandering around - not just academic ones!

Now that I am working full time in an interesting job, I find I am having lots of ideas and flickers of story coming at odd moments. I have a special file at work for ones that come there :smiley:. Granted, I don't have as much time to write, but what I am writing, I think is much better than what I was writing when I wasn't being mentally challenged in other ways - ie. while I was looking for work!

That's just me though - I enjoy being busy and tend to feed off the increased energy.

As for ending Peril's Gate…is there a bookstore you can nip into and just read it there? The waiting to get to it must be painful!!!


originally posted by Cheryl

Hi Ika missed you here. Are you reading any Dragonlance books lately? I know lots of notepad writing. I can't find half my notes I spend more time trying to find where I wrote something. Hi Sandtiger, can't wait for your short story in August I for one am anticipating it and the other stories. I haven't got Julie's newest book yet is it really great? I like the hardcover artwork. Don't quit writing Sandtiger I know you'll be a great writer.

originally posted by Ika

Hi Janny and everyone!

Sandtiger glad to see you too. Thanks for your thought on writing. The thought of stifling ideas when they come are just…yeesh. And yes, I agree, when writing is a passion, it doesn't feel so much as work but a conduit we use to express ourselves and our innermost uh…can't find the word…perception of the world? Anyway, being in a learning environment, well…if it's bound to trigger something somwhere eh?

And no, I can't find any bookstore where I am right now! The nearest bookstore is approximately four hours drive away. I'm in the middle of nowhere surrounded by paddy fields and cows. Nice and beautiful place to be if you want to get out of town for a couple of weeks…but one can only stare at paddy fields so long before she starts missing the skyscrapers *laughs* aaah, the ending!!

Hi cheryl! I haven't been read any dragonlance books for a while. I'm starting on George R.R Martin's work though.

originally posted by Cheryl

I would prefer your paddy fields to my airport's new runway. The planes go over my house all the time. We are moving to our new house soon. We're looking and I can't wait to move to our next bigger home. I would love the paddy fields and middle of nowhere. Never move anywhere near an airport. Their's too much expansion going on and they don't mind flying low over people's homes anymore.

originally posted by Sandtiger


Survival is Julie's best book yet. It takes all the best of her other books, then jumps up about two notches.

It's excellent. Well worth the hardcover price, because it's one of those books you want to keep :smiley:

As for me and writing - I'll never be stopping, so have no worries there!

And Ika, eep. I did that once…I lived for a year on a farm in Australia when I did a Rotary student exchange there - An amazing experience, but not many books to be found. So I had my parents mail me the important ones :smiley:. If I remember correctly, one was Fugitive Prince.

Sandtiger. (Who only realised how ridiculously expensive this was afterwards)

originally posted by George


On a farm in Australia!? Where? Which state?

Some of the places in Australia are VERY remote…kinda scary.


PS. Wouldn't it have been easier to order it from a Aussie bookshop? *laugh*

originally posted by Cheryl

I'll buy Julies book then this week. I thought I mentioned I ordered Janny's recommendation for Techniques of a Selling Writer. I'm excited to get it now. I think it will be interesting read if nothing else. Does Julie have some heroes to read about Sandtiger I know I'm bad.

originally posted by Sandtiger

I never said I was smart, George :smiley:. That was my first time living overseas, and I really had no idea I could ORDER books by mail - it was before the Internet - or before I found my way to the internet, I should say.

Not as remote as some areas, either - but remote for me! A little town called Barraba, population 1500 or so. Near Tamworth (Country Music Capital of Australia for those who don't know) in New South Wales.

I was living on a sheep and cattle ranch, where the mail was only delivered three times a week, rather than every day. (Funny the things I remember).


originally posted by George

And don't tell me…you had to travel for an hour in order to get in to town! And making a trip to Tamworth was a big deal!

Your closest neighbour was 45 minutes away? :smiley:

Nobody ever realises how far away things are in Australia!


originally posted by Leonie

Well said George!! I now live in the Upper Hunter in NSW (only 150km from Tamworth where we have good friends!), but prior to that I lived in a small town in the Pilbara region of WA. People in NSW think we're mad - we went to Bendigo for Easter (about 2000km round trip) but when you've lived in the Pilbara, and had to drive for four and a half hours just to get shoes, ten hours to see friends is not really too bad at all!!!

And when you start trying to describe the distances to people from other countries, it's very hard to get the scale across. :smiley: But it's fun trying…


originally posted by Ika

Hi janny, and everyone!

Yay, finally managed to get back in paravia!

Cheryl, the paddy fields are gorgeous…it's green all around and easy on the eyes, but the only problem is the bugs and the heat. I'm getting wound infections from their bites and some of the bugs cling to my laundry after I wash. What's more, the weather's crazy. The locals say, when it's hot, it's blistering hot…but when the rain season come, it's really, really cold. I would like to experience a little snow for once in my life though *laughs*. Too bad there's no such weather here where I live.

Sandtiger? You frequent Julie's ng right? Could you perhaps please let me know what's the restrictions and the expectations or requirements on posting at the site? (if you don't mind) I was thinking of posting my snippets there.

Janny, I heard sometime back that an english lecturer here in this university recommended your book for reading assignments! My friend was tutored under her for a while, and she said the lecturer encourages her students to read your book to improve their english. And i can't get Julie's book for a while…The nearest bookstore is uh…8 hours away!! *cries*

Cheers everyone!

originally posted by Cheryl

Sandtiger since Ika asked you that question about Julie's group, I wondered how to sign on to her newsgroup. It seems to be difficult for me to sign on to newsgroups of anyone's site. I'm sure glad Janny's site is easy to get to. I don't know what I'd do if this was a newsgroup. I just wonder why newsgroups give me trouble getting into. I can register in most all sites but not the newsgroups. I have SBC dSL now I don't know if that's a problem. Ika at least you don't have all this rain we've been having. It's constant rain here in Houston. It's been awful I'm starting to worry about floods. Husband couldn't get home till late last night from a feeder road flooded that normally doesn't flood. I just thought I wish we had a fellowship of the seven to control our weather right about now. Could you make one of them real Janny? Grin