Staring at the Sun



A story is a ray of light. A blinding beam of conscious thought emanating directly from your soul. This light is bright, blinding even, and if you look directly at it, or for too long, you’ll be seeing spots for hours. Trust me, I’m looking at one right now.

But hidden within the white light of a story concept, or indeed a completed work, is a spectrum of elements and plotlines. The trouble lies in avoiding the bedazzlement long enough to see their hidden colours at work.

I don’t know about you but I have a problem discerning the elements of my stories. By that I mean theme, voice, plotlines, purpose etc. Every scene has to relate to the theme. Every event has to have a purpose. Every plotline has to weave perfectly into the next. Yadda, yadda etc.

When I first unearth that precious nugget of brilliance I am at a loss as to how to break it down into these so-called ‘essential elements’. My initial excitement of the find is soon dulled by doubt and self-loathing and, more often than not, the story is swallowed by thunderheads before it’s ever had a chance to shine.

In short, I suffer from story blindness.

Something happens, when I take a concept and try to refract it.

All the colours look the same.

I mean what is thesis anyway? What is theme? Aren’t they essentially the same thing? And what about the message, the lesson, the philosophy I’m flogging? What is my voice? What is my style? Are my plotlines coherent? My characters well rounded? I mean, jeez, all I wanted to do was write a story about a chick with gun who robs a space station and makes off with the key to the ninth gate of Hell, or some shit! (I’m thinking of calling it ‘Zelda Get Your Gun’) I don’t want to be bogged down in the boring stuff, the literary mechanics of the thing. I just want to write a ripping good read. Do I really have to refract the light? Can’t I just invest in a good pair of sun glasses and hope for the best?

Abso-bloomin-lutely I can!

Kid you not, I have spent years trying to disassemble my stories without success. For me it ruins the aesthetic. I’ve learned that if I bog myself down in trying to be clever my story will never get off the ground. So I don’t. Not anymore.

And do you know what?

The rainbow reveals itself anyway. The very act of writing is all the refraction your story needs. I mean, sure, it’ll still need a little shaping and a shitload of polishing for its colours to really zing but they’re there. They always were. They were just hidden behind the light.

What I’m saying is, don’t sweat the small stuff when you’re writing. Instead, look up into that ominous sky of roiling doubt and self-loathing and marvel at the rainbow you’re painting.

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