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Author Topic: Produce
Denevius
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I was worried about THE ASCENT MADE HIM PLUNGE when I first started writing it, as it's not often that I begin a narrative in which I don't know how it's going to end. Not knowing how the story would end is why I had to change the title several times, from SHARDS, when I thought the narrative was about one thing, to BAIT, when I was narrowing in on what the story was truly about, to DANGLE, to its current title. Not knowing how a story will end is a 'fly by the seat of your pants' method of producing fiction that I don't normally practice. Adding to that that several years ago, I began the habit of finishing every piece I begin, and my worry at beginning THE ASCENT increased.

If I don't think I can finish a story, I don't start it, which is why knowing the ending is essential. I didn't know the ending to THE ASCENT, but I started it, so how good could it possibly turn out?

However, I no longer have the luxury of waiting until a story's major plot points are more or less finished in my head before taking the plunge into the narrative. And so I've begun a new phase in my writing career, which is penning prompts, from which I'll write a story to a certain word count. This story, THE ASCENT MADE HIM PLUNGE, is the first attempt. I'll have to wait to see how readers respond to the completed piece, but so far it's going better than I expected. Granted, after writing the end of the first draft, I had to then go back and write 10 fresh new pages because the conclusion surprised even me.

So I'm curious. What is your method to produce fiction? And I don't mean simply waiting for inspiration, which is a romantic sentiment but generally not the greatest at completing big projects where elbow grease is more appropriate.

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Robert Nowall
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With shorter work, I usually have a pretty good idea of how I want it to end---sometimes it changes, but I can start with a pretty good idea.

Longer works now...well, I've let them wander along, with somewhat ambivalent results. I know generally what'll happen two and three chapters ahead, but not the actual end...and the result where I'll go as much as a hundred thousand words into a novel before the thing crashes and burns without any hope of a resolution. (I did have one novel that stopped one chapter short of what I originally intended---and I realized that was a point where I could end it---but, except for running through a second draft a while ago, I haven't done anything with it---it's not science fiction, though it's kind of a science fiction background.)

For practically all works, I'd recommend having some clear idea of how you intend to end it.

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Denevius
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quote:
For practically all works, I'd recommend having some clear idea of how you intend to end it.
I agree, which is why I was reluctant to start the above mentioned story. I didn't know how it would end, but there are some techniques you can use to help resolve stories where an end is still an unknown.

Limited characters introduced in the narrative. If you're only dealing with 2 to 4 characters, the number of directions the plot can go will start to burn out as you write page after page.

But hand in hand with that, limited background changes. Keeping your 2 to 4 characters in one place also helps reduce potential tangents to plot. 3 characters in a bar is a story that resolves itself in 10 to 20 pages, as long as you don't introduce any other characters, even off the page. As soon as more names crop up, the potential for an unwieldy plot grows.

And if your 2 to 4 characters all have predetermined motivations, then resolutions will eventually write themselves. In a story of 3 in a park, one character needs money, one character needs love, one character needs to get out of the city. Sticking to these character motivations will create the tension, obstacles, and conclusion.

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extrinsic
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I remain confident that a synthesis of directed and intuitive composition is more productive than either apart. The synthesis method entails strategies for production when one or the other stalls.

Though the intuition method appears loose and inconsistent free association, the method can come from directed influences. The subconscious and nonconscious minds and the conscious mind may converse, do converse; it is only a matter of conscious participation in the conversation.

For example, an area of personal, probably private consideration arises due to strong and vague external and internal influences from a want or problem or both causing heartache and unrest -- stress. The natural human condition wants to alleviate the above, to restore equilibrium. Ergo, a narrative composition process meditates upon and mediates, perhaps mitigates the stresses by addressing the complications thereof, possibly superficially, maybe intangibly though more meaningfully and satisfactorily, if not more irrevocably and unequivocally from a full appreciation of contributions.

The question has been asked here and elsewhere across time and space what features propel a composition into popular or critical acclaim or classics or all the former status: timelessness, relevance, accessibleness, and artistic expression loom large, though those are so vague as to be all but empty platitudes.

An intense inquiry into a single first principle expands the status horizon to limitless application; that is, all literature not of an objectivist intent and function -- history, propaganda, physical sciences, math, and technological sciences and arts -- may be assumed or as a given to be satire: expression that reveals human vice, folly, and frailty. In other words, expression that portrays the human condition's public, social, intellectual, and spiritual value and belief systems. Morals, in short.

Those morals are drivers of and from the subconscious and nonconscious minds' influences of intuitive expression. They are personal values that contend with social values in the sense personal values are private desires to serve the self's good and social values are public desires to serve the common good. The self cannot give care to the common good if the self does not give care to the self and vice versa. Therein is the values contest in simplest terms.

For a meaningful composition, intuitive or directed or an individualized, proportioned, and sequenced synthesis of both and more, some identification of a value is crucial. One narrow value topic, short or long composition, not several, only one is the core unifier and dramatic action of whole, piece, part, and parcel.

Identify and single out the value in contention at least, either through free-association expression or beforehand for directed expression or afterward for revision. Or proportioned weights of each, my method of production.

A first cause, say of three characters interacting in a park, one needs love, one needs money, one needs to be elsewhere, drives from what do they share in common in terms of values. The love wanter is problematized by a lack, the money wanter is problematized by a lack, the flight wanter is problematized by a lack. Lack of what other than tangible features? Lack of self-worth. They are the causes of their lacks from allowing their selfish acts' needs to outweigh their selfless acts' rewards. They alienate the means of accomplishing their self-worth ends by their selfish acts.

A congruent first cause then is their selfishness caused by the important lack of consideration of selflessness as a means with rewarding ends. They only know how to serve themselves because that's all their environments taught them, the congruent first cause. Their lack of due diligence to themselves, sloth, and responsibility to the common good they should have or must learn on their own initiatives. That's life and drama and satire.

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Denevius
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quote:
I remain confident that a synthesis of directed and intuitive composition is more productive than either apart.
Though I'm writing some of my best fiction now, I'm actually drawing upon ideas that came to me in my mid-20s, when I was at most creative. For years I didn't think I'd ever write fiction better than what I produced in my self-published collection ONE HOUR, though my ability to shape prose would be stronger as I practiced more and got older.

Now, though, I'm not so sure. I used to have to be struck with inspiration before I wrote. I've developed greater disciple and a greater aptitude to mine thoughts for inspiration, which makes the risk of beginning a story without a known ending possible for the first time.

I do wonder how many inspired ideas a person is capable of within their lifetimes before they're basically repeating the same narrative. Drawing upon the past to help strengthen my current writing seems to be working so far, though, and I still have a lot of original material that I haven't allocated to any prose narratives yet. Though the NATURAL POLICE saga is draining up the reservoir fast as I expand the narrative universe to create a series that remains exciting from tome to tome.

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Grumpy old guy
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The idea for a story comes from wherever such things grow. I don't look for it, I just wait until something piques my emotional interest. There are, of course, lots of false starts with ideas that lead nowhere but occasionally a flower blooms and a story is born. Currently my writing career encompasses two phases: the first one was intuitive, spontaneous writing; which is great for voice and character development and not much else, now I plan the bejezzus out of the story which is great for honing plot and character and creating nuanced depth in both. In the spontaneous phase I knew where I want to go, just not how to get there; which made travelling down dead-ends commonplace--and damned annoying. Now I know exactly where I'm going and exactly how to get there; but putting the words on the page to bring to 'life' what I've planned and 'show' what my characters feel I leave to spontaneous creation when I actually sit down and write the story. Or I will, right now I have the world's worst case of Writer's Block.

Phil.

[ April 30, 2016, 12:55 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]

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Robert Nowall
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No you don't, I do.

Actually, some of what I've done worries me because of something of a sameness about it. In the last several years I've done four or five stories, including one of those endless novel attempts, that have all come to nothing---chiefly 'cause the central conceit of the stories derives from some stories George Railroad Martin did way back before "Game of Thrones." Seems like plagiarism to send them out as my own work.

Following that up, I have a variation-on-a-theme, that seems more original, that's produced four or five stories, of which I've sent out three to market. (Two are on my website.)

It's depressing, and plays right into my writer's block, because I'd like to do something else...but nothing's coming.

(Been working on breaking the block---one thing I do of late is to find some lurid online comic or artwork, and "novelize" it, usually adding some original material along the way. I'd hope to break my block---I've got a vacation coming up next week and I'd like to be able to work during it. Completely unpublishable, of course.)

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Denevius
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The fundamentals of my writing come from literary authors and poets that I studied under twenty years ago like Dororthy Allison and Cornelius Eady. I was taught that writer's block is attempting to write about something that you don't want to. And that you mine your life to fill the page.

I tend to take real life experiences and infuse them into narratives, which is why my writing is a map of my personal growth. Of course, I haven't tried to write an imagined world in the mode of 'Game of Thrones' in a long time. I stick to urban fantasy/horror, spec fiction. But I've read over and over again that George R.R. Martin is actually using historical events as bases to write his really long series. Even he is heavily burrowing, but there's probably a ton of research going into his novels, and I've never had the patience for research. If I can't learn about something I want to write about through firsthand experiences, I simply don't write about it.

We all have a lot of words inside of us. Though the other member didn't heed my advice, I think a lot of writers waste their words on social media venues. I always think it's strange when someone writes that they can't write or don't have time to write...by writing. You hear this a lot more lately for spheres beyond writing, but I think a lot of people would produce a lot more prose if they unplugged.

At the same time, life kind of handicaps people who want to successfully write. If you've been basically living in the same area, interacting intimately with the same people, conversing about the same topics, it's going to be hard to not write narratives that all start to sound the same. Being human, we tend to seek comfortable niches and stick with that. Same couple of restaurants, same couple of cafes, same couple of excursions, same couple of friends. Definitely not the most effective way to find something new or original to write about.

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Grumpy old guy
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Game of Thrones is basically The War of the Roses on
steroids. Or the Italian City States gone wild.

Phil.

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Robert Nowall
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quote:
I was taught that writer's block is attempting to write about something that you don't want to.
True. And in my younger days I often abandoned something after a typewritten page or two. Now I just write notes on my ideas and never get back to them.
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Sara Luikert
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I think that if you have writers block its because you haven't thought through the scene well enough, that a piece of the pre-writes is missing. Just my hunch. I always get to writing once I figure out what it is I'm writing...
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Denevius
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The question becomes if thinking through the scene is more important than simply getting through the scene.

We all have our different philosophies for writing, but definitely I subscribe to the one where finishing pieces is of paramount importance. Going hand-in-hand with having a distaste for research is an aversion to taking notes on fiction I'm writing. Every now and then if I'm busy doing something else and if a line comes to me, I'll jot it down. But that's so rare. I'd hate to be that stereotypical writer always walking around with a pad jotting stuff down. Minute to minute life isn't nearly that interesting.

The definition of 'finished' for fiction can take many forms. Plot resolution is one, and ideal, though I think many people find this difficult to accomplish. Predetermining the end of a story along a different set of rules could be useful. Deciding a story is finished when one or all of the characters are dead. Or just setting a certain word count and not going beyond that.

What's been your most productive writing period in your lifetime?

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Disgruntled Peony
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
I always think it's strange when someone writes that they can't write or don't have time to write...by writing.

That's fair, but I think there are a lot of potential complications. I, personally, can find little timeframes to write on a conversational level like this during breaks at work and the like. I don't think of it like writing; I think of it like talking in a digital medium.

The process of crafting prose is much more involved for me. When I write fiction, I often work for hours at a time and lose myself to the world. That means I need to have at least an hour free in order to avoid feeling rushed. Two or three is preferable.

I also have to be in the right state of mind. If I've spent too long at work or had too stressful a day, I can't focus sufficiently to write quality prose.

I've been trying to escape the mentality that writing only happens when I sit down at the computer, too. It's easy to forget or overlook the fact that brainstorming and outlining are important parts of the writing process.

As far as my general process goes, I've found that writing without an outline results in a lot more rewrites than working from an outline for me at this point. I prefer to outline first as a result, but will sometimes write out snippets of story when I first get an idea and then outline afterward.

I used to be a lot more comfortable writing things on the fly from start to finish--but then, I was also much less experienced at that point and it showed.

[ April 30, 2016, 01:21 PM: Message edited by: Disgruntled Peony ]

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extrinsic
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My current time is my most productive writing though of a different criteria than word count or finished in the sense of the usual givens.

Story ideas and inspirations for me flow unabated and of unaltered quality from childhood time's imaginative make believe nature, though adult in scope since adulthood onset. I kept my early writing; this writer's trunk is large. I keep my writing, period. I use the trunk trove for a gauge of writing growth progress, of inspirations that wait interpretation, that mark my personal growth.

I'm stuck, I know, not from block, from knowing a goal is before me and falling short of my minimum expectations. I write regardless. My daily word count typed on the sacred page would shame most word-count metrics writers, why I don't base my progress on word count. My reading count, too, and study, research, experiment, even observation of subject matter from the wilderness and from wildlife -- that is, from my public life, includes incidental and intentional encounters with subject matter research in the blind of a meek, mild mannered, participant wherever and such.

My production is copious, not quite at the mark I strive for and know I can do writing-wise. I bracket the target with ever tighter shot groups.

I'm close. The end is in sight from setting a goal, a bull's eye mark, that suits my purpose. What has held me from the mark is a too broadened horizon. I'm an omnivore, most anything anymore entertains me, even the driest-dull composition contains appeal for me. Like what's missing and that prospect enough to keep me engaged, plus a forensic analysis of origins and shortfalls, what could be the source of the composition's background, intents, and shortfalls, for at least analysis of methods that would enhance the intents and meanings of a composition. Like where the writer learned grammar and style and rhetoric and how the writer applies them to the intent, or misses their best practice application. Fun reading court documents, instruction manuals, dry as stale toast textbooks, etc.

My most recent advancement along the Poet's Journey came from narrowing the horizon. I do not want to preach and teach with writing, though an underlaid function of prose is exactly that. I was conflicted by that dissonance. The reconciliation of it has taken time and effort with a directed intent. The reconciliation came from a number of conflicted sources, not least of which my own intents. Research and study opened doors and provided the satisfaction I sought -- a focused definition of my aesthetics.

They are package a message within a lively and vivid private-personal drama, discover a singular, personal-private moral truth along the journey, and do so with the subtler tools of the trade.

Satire presented itself as a target, that satire targets subjects and topics of a moral nature. Satire study then brought up a range of categories Roman philosophers practiced -- three in particular: Juvenal, Horatio, and Menippus. Juvenalian satire targets individual persons and uses ironic sarcasm most for satire; Horatian targets the morals of persons, uses irony more and sarcasm less; Menippean targets morals, not persons, and uses irony and little, if any, sarcasm.

Menippean satire entails my focus. However, its broad approach to moral matters leaves characterization's private personableness wanting. A fusion then of contemporary private personableness and Realism's reality imitation appeals and Menippean satire is my target goal defined. What's left is what morals to target. Like hypocrisy, yes, that one appeals to me. Yet not through overt preaching or teaching. Close anyway, probably close enough. Specificity of dramatic features covers the rest.

I poured through my trunk and found that the whole is efforts on my part to understand the meaning of my life and its events, to understand my social standing to others such that life would be more peaceful and enjoyable, content if not comfortable or happy. The whole is an attempt to unravel the complexity of human existence. The exercise lacked a compass, a basis upon which to analyze for a satisfactory outcome.

Morals provides that compass, a rationale for existence, not just proper social conduct because mom and them and all and sundry said so: my motivation for genuine responsible social conduct and behavior. Not that I am a wicked little miscreant, I abated many vice temptations, because of what I was taught and learned is proper, though many who taught me are hypocrites, until I had sincere cause for virtue. Hypocrite though I am, I am human: I now know the calling and the purpose of my writing. Productive indeed.

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Denevius
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quote:
That's fair, but I think there are a lot of potential complications. I, personally, can find little timeframes to write on a conversational level like this during breaks at work and the like. I don't think of it like writing; I think of it like talking in a digital medium.
Use the advice given for keep physically healthy. Supposedly something like 8 minutes of sustained exercise a day is enough to help prevent many, well, preventable illnesses. I think the key, though, is 8 minutes every day.

I think if someone set a timer on their phone for 10 minutes, and for those 10 minutes they sat down in front of a page, they'd probably only get a paragraph done. Maybe all of five sentences. Do this every day, and at the end of the week, you'll probably have a full page and a half completed. In a month, that's six pages, and most fiction venues these days seek out short fiction anyway. Flash fiction and vignettes.

High prose production is probably necessary to reach those gems that really standout and have publication potential.

quote:
I'm stuck, I know, not from block, from knowing a goal is before me and falling short of my minimum expectations.
Having high expectations is different from setting impossible expectations. Kind of like the girl who looks in the mirror and seems an overweight person even though she's all of 79 pounds.
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LDWriter2
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I am late to this but decided to answer the question of how I produce fiction.

I am a pantser which for those who don't know or I misspelled the word I don't outline or really plan a story. Which means I am used to doing a story without knowing the ending. Usually I know the basics in my head since a story will pop into my head whole. Well pretty much whole, I need to fill in descriptions, blank areas and even add a bit to get my hero from one scene to another.

But sometimes I see just the opening and I have think up the rest of it as I go. I am doing one story that started as my first ghost story. But along the way I added another ghost and changed the composition of the original ghost. The ending will still be the same. Of course I just know the very basics of the ending. I also felt like I needed to add two stories of how each ghost came to be.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
quote:
I'm stuck, I know, not from block, from knowing a goal is before me and falling short of my minimum expectations.
Having high expectations is different from setting impossible expectations. Kind of like the girl who looks in the mirror and seems an overweight person even though she's all of 79 pounds.
My minimum writing expectations derive from reasoned and rational analyses of what's possible from what I know and struggle to achieve. Part of why I strive is due to many declined submissions and analyses of why. Eventually, I understand and don't do whatever anymore or do whatever is indicated -- like foreshadowing and more robust preparation, suspension, and satisfaction sequencing.

Numbers one and two on the hit parade are emotional and moral charge shortfalls. Next is too sophisticated language. In the plus column are facility with idiosyncratic dialect and one rare stream-of-consciousness method that galvanizes focus group readers at polar opposites. Plus others of both decline and accept columns.

Most every narrative and method does galvanize readers to some degree of strength. The stronger the opposition polarity of responses are, suggests to me that I've bracketed a target more closely than when responses are less passionately in opposition.

At the base of the galvanized opposition are matters of different emotional and moral values and unconventional methods that ask a mite of learning on the part of a portion of readers who balk at methodical-instructive narratives. Weighted proportions of the latter could be mitigated by quality and quantity. The former is more problematic, yet irony and satire hold promise for spans and bridges of values polarity.

Oh the pesky social politics of values!? One of science fiction's attractions for me is how the genre copes with public value disparity through use of ironic, non-one-to-one correspondence between concrete motifs and their abstract symbolisms.

Fantasy, too, to a similar degree of ironic concrete and abstract representations, though adjusted by the hard bright line that separates the two, really, matters of milieu: science fiction's fantastical sciences, technologies, and social milieus and their attendant revealed human vices and virtues, and follies and frailties; fantasy, likewise, social values, differentiated though by portraits of fantasy's abstract metaphysical cultural effects instead of science fiction's science and technology's concrete cultural causes.

Fantasy, effect social affect; science fiction, cause social affect; both of focal emotional and moral values charge, as is all literature.

[ May 04, 2016, 12:03 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Denevius
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quote:
I am doing one story that started as my first ghost story. But along the way I added another ghost and changed the composition of the original ghost.
Does adding new characters over complicate the prose? I always find the fewer the characters, the tighter the narrative. Transubstantiation has 8 characters, which is actually quite a lot. It's also almost 7000 words, though, which is a fairly long story.

Each new introduction of a character requires some kind of a resolution to give a purpose in being mentioned. The Ascent has 4 characters, but the prose I added develops the relationship of two of them since their earlier interaction needed further involvement to better match the ending I eventually wrote. Right now it seems like that story will also be close to 7000 words. After writing 11 fresh pages, I'm finally to the original beginning of the story, which was already 20 pages.

I'm definitely always reluctant to add characters to short stories, though.

quote:
My minimum writing expectations derive from reasoned and rational analyses of what's possible from what I know and struggle to achieve.
Connecting with readers. Giving them as many wow moments as possible as they read the piece. I think these would be my primary aspirations.
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extrinsic
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Many different wows for different folks, plus roller coaster wow rides, five hundred word wow dashes, trans-cosmos wow journeys, a bronco ride of a catch boat wow cruise, and more than or other than visceral and romantic wows of death and marriage. I get enough of those from life experience and overexposure to them from narrative and film culture.

I'm fond of satire wows, reading and writing and -- well, living la vitae.

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dmsimone
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I'm really late to this conversation, but I noted the GoT references as I was skimming...York is to Lancaster as Stark is to Lannister...

I would make a cheeky Jon Snow comment here but that would (1) create a spoiler for fans of the books who aren't watching HBO, and (2) hijack the purpose of this thread.

Addressing your original question, if I need fresh ideas, then I'll stop whatever I'm working on and read. Historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, etc. I will re-read old favorites (Austen is perfection, Tolkien is exceptional, Tolstoy forces me to make a chart to keep track of all the Russian names). I can't make myself have an idea but I am really big on fleshing out an idea once I've got a spark.

I also put myself in the minds of the characters and study all angles of their psyche. What motivates them? What are their desires? What DRIVES them? Those are essential questions, IMO, and can push a story in many different directions.

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Denevius
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quote:
Addressing your original question, if I need fresh ideas, then I'll stop whatever I'm working on and read.
I've never been able to draw a lot of inspiration from reading. Though I will admit that it was a friend's book that I workshopped which, after many years of writing finally made me realize what hadn't been working in my narratives up until then.

Usually, though, the only thing that refills the well of ideas I have that I use up is physically relocating. Either getting a new group of friends, getting a new job, moving to a different city, crossing the ocean to a new country.

A new environment inspires my imagination, which makes producing fiction easier.

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