When writing fiction, I can’t really discuss the plot with you. As much as I’d like to, since it’s the thing rolling through my head more often than anything else, I can’t. Don’t let me.
To this end, here are the kinds of supportive questions it’s OK to ask:
- What’s your word count? Right now, Zero! Ask again 11/2.
- What is the genre? Science Fiction ….Is it sort of like >? I have been searching for a storyline it is remotely like, actually…..
- Would you like me to clean your house to give you more time to write? Yes, please! How supportive of you!
- Would you like another cup of coffee? / some more chocolate? Yes, please! How supportive of you!
- Why can’t you tell me the plot? (see below)
And here are some examples of questions I will snarl and growl and become generally uncommunicative about:
- What’s it about? Some people, doing some stuff.
- How are you going to end it? It will end itself. Or I will collapse in a heap of exhaustion.
- Have you created that crucial “Catchy” first line yet? Snarl…. growl…..(see below)
- What’s the climax going to be? I dunno… a characterization of someone asking questions like this getting beheaded?
- Who is the bad guy? Aren’t people too complex for us to label? You. You are the bad guy. There. Satisfied?
- What are the themes? life, death, birth, separations, reunions…
- What is your hero’s tragic flaw? Killing people for asking annoying questions?
- Can I read it? Yes, you may have a copy when it’s in hardback.
Three big reasons for my snarling and growling at these sorts of questions:
- ACK! The Pressure! I’m writing a first draft. Not a rewrite, not a final. This is not going to see the light of day once I hack it to bits sometime during the spring of ’09. No one reads this version. There are no themes. There is no climax. I don’t know who the bad guy is until I write him in. If I stress out about that catchy first line, I’ll spend the whole month on it!
- Writing is a Journey of Discovery. I have to allow my characters to come to life, to make their own choices and create their own paths. Unlike real life, I’ll be able to rewind time and recreate the whole thing over again if I don’t like where it ends up, but the writing process has to be organic.
- No Spoilers Allowed! Experience has taught me that if I know how the story ends, I’ll stop writing it. Along the same lines of the “journey of discovery”, I am my own very first reader, and I have to follow the trails until I see where they end up. If I’m excited by the suspense, I will keep writing just for the sake of finding out what happens next!