Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Rigid Structure Vs. Creativity (Or "Man vs. Himself")

Now that the water "crisis" is over and caffeinated goodness flows freely again, I'll get back to the writing process.

There is a lot of pre-work I do before the actually writing part begins. There is 'The Idea'--that moment that happens and you stop everything, usually followed by me saying "Oh Sh--!"

Sometimes the ideas are good, sometimes not. But I DO love that feeling. Unfortunately for my dog Jack, it usually occurs when I'm walking him and it happens five feet from his favorite fire hydrant. He's such a patient pooch.

Anyhoo--Then there is research and fiddling with the idea (or ideas) to flesh them out. Which brings me to today's topic of structure vs. creativity.

Your standard outline taught in school never worked for me. You know the one--Start with Capital Roman numerals, then letters and numbers and lower case roman numerals and...so on. Boring stuff really.

My training and schooling was based on engineering, math and architecture. I'm a very visual type of guy, so I needed to find something to use that would work for me. I needed a brainstorming method that would allow me to play with structure, yet provide the framework to fully flesh out a story.

During my 'research writers I like' phase, I came across Jim Butcher's blog (http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/). Now if you haven't read his 'Dresden Files' series, I highly recommend it. But his outline method to organize his writing was more visual in nature. And I liked it.

But I'm also a geek...so using a computer with the sort of visual Approach Jim uses seemed to be the way to go. So I looked for an application for my trusty Macbook Pro that would combine what Mr. Butcher suggested with what I wanted to see.

Enter a program called 'Mindmapper' by Mind Jet, introduced to me by a colleague at my day job. I'm able to put in quickly where I want to go, what I want the characters to accomplish. I can even put together a few scenes I have in my head. Like I said, I'm trained as an engineer, so seeing a 'visual' construct of the story is important to me. And that's what Mindmapper does.

Ahhhh. But do I STICK to the outline?

Sorta. Sometimes when I'm actually filling in the details, something changes. Maybe a character steps up in my head and says "Yeah....I should do abc vs xyz." Or the monster ends up having a heart of gold. With Mindmapper, I can switch ideas and scenes around quickly to see the impact to the overall story. And that works for me.

Yes, I love structure. But I also love when the unexpected creativity happens. That's why I say it's Man vs Himself. It's my two loves (when it comes to writing) colliding. Sometimes the result is a train wreck.

But sometimes...sometimes a whole new idea manifests. And Jack will wait patiently once again to get to his hydrant.

Tomorrow-Chapter Two.


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