Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Help, I'm Blinded by The Words!

Some of you know I went to Alaska recently. Not only did the inspiration for this post come from the many gorgeous hikes I took in the one week, so also did the photos. 

Photo by Mary Vee
The setting: The Iditarod trail in Alaska. The official site states this about the Iditarod race: 
"You can’t compare it to any other competitive event in the world! A race covering  1000 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature has to offer. She throws jagged mountain ranges, frozen river, dense forest, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast at the mushers and their dog teams."

What better way to describe our writing experience!

Photo by Mary Vee,
Iditarod Trail

1. Enter the woods: You have your first nugget of a story idea. If you are a plotter, you've outline the book and are ready to write. If you are a pantster, the words are tugging at your shirtsleeve demanding your attention. "Hey we have a page to get to. Do you mind? Sit down and key us onto the screen already."

2. Step into Alice in Wonderland: Engaged in the words, you find yourself in a new world populated with characters you haven't seen before. They introduce themselves to you. Although you greet them, only one stands out above all the others. She takes your hand, says her name is MC and guides you to a path labeled for MC only. "I'm not sure where this leads," she says. "I only know this is the way." As the two of you walk, she tells you about a problem that has so engulfed her every thought she can't think.

Photo by Mary Vee, Iditarod Trail
3. The enticing side trail: You and MC have been walking a while. The roaring sound of water seeps through the trees and greenery. A narrow trail, barely the width of your foot, separates the foliage. MC stops talking. She looks down. "I wonder what is this way." Before you can stop her, she drags down the offshoot. The trail disappears around the bend, but the roar of the water echoes louder off the trees. She takes a step then wobbles, "Help!" You grab her sleeve and pull her back. The woods have disguised the edge of a high cliff, which only a moment ago, guaranteed her demise. Although MC is elated you saved her life, she finds herself enticed by other narrow trails, each, she discovers, offered doom as the destination. 

4. The canopy: There hasn't been a post marking the path in a long time. You begin to wonder if you've slipped onto some other character's path. You've never been directionally challenged before, but suddenly you're not sure. MC speaks, but you can't hear her words. You look up at the canopy searching for answers. What time is it? Where is the sun? The fullness of the branches and leaves block the sky. The sun is hidden. And you are lost in the words.

Photo by Mary Vee, Iditarod Trail

5. The fork: Somewhere on the path, you and MC turned the wrong way. Nothing makes sense. You and MC hear voices in the distance but can't tell where they're coming from. Sounds in the word forest have fooled you before. They've echoed off boulders hidden afar, and surrounding trees. Where are the other characters who introduced themselves in the beginning of the story? They promised to help when needed.

Photo by Mary Vee, Iditarod Trail

6. Blinded by the words: The word trees suddenly grew closer together. They're standing together, arm in arm, branch in branch, blocking the way to the end. You look down and see hundreds of narrow trails. None of them look right. MC turns a 360 and puts her hands on her face. She doesn't know what to do. She looks pleadingly at you. "Help. I don't know the way." 

Everything has become a tangled mess. You slam your laptop shut and pace, wearing the carpet fibers of your workspace thin. You call your crit partner and five other people. Help! I don't know what to do! The words are tangled, and there doesn't seem to be a way out. 

You hear a few plausible idea--but then eureka, you remember to pray. 

Photo by Mary Vee, Iditarod Trail

Thought sort themselves. Cohesive words align.

You open your laptop and click on the document. In the distance, a small wooden sign sprouts in the path. You point to it. MC runs ahead. She turns the direction indicated by the sign. You try to keep up, but she runs faster. The sound of rushing water grows closer. If you don't catch up, MC might encounter danger. "Wait, MC!" you call. 

Photo by Mary Vee
Iditarod Trail

7. The gorge: The trail switchbacks down the mountain. Temperatures rise, and bugs come out of nowhere to sting and bite. The trees stay back, leaving you to walk into the meadow. Still the path descends at a sharp angle toward the roaring water. You round a curve and find MC stepping into the hand tram. "Come on! It's the only way across the gorge," she shouts. 

A fear of heights overtakes you. You step back. 

"This is the only way," she pleads. "I see it now. Please come with me."

Photo by Mary Vee, Iditarod Trail

Your stomach twists. You lean over and lose your last meal. If you let her go without you--the story will never end, and the words will keep you lost in the word forest--forever. 

You have to make a choice. Follow the call or not.

I know I didn't offer solutions here so much as I: 
1. Acknowledged that these issues happen to all of us at one time or another; 
2. Called the issue to your attention incase you are lost in word trees and can't see the forest around you; 
3. Encouraged you to keep going to reach the end of your story. 

Photo by Mary Vee
An arm of the Pacific Ocean
I heard in a class somewhere that we should write one sentence describing our story on a card. You don't have to sweat this one, it's not a pitch. No one will see the sentence but you. 

Take the card with the sentence and fix it to the upper corner of your monitor. As you write each scene, glance up at the card and ask yourself: 

*Are you on the path that will lead to "The End"? 
*Have you taken a rabbit trail? 
*Has your MC become distracted? 
*Have other characters tried to leap into the story to steal your attention?
*Has your desire to write flowery, impressive narrative and dialogue clouded your voice?
*Are you ready to ride the tram across the gorge?

I can't wait to read your comment!


If you found any typos in today's post...sorry about that. 

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes young adult mystery/adventure Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

Visit Mary at her website and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter


Julia M. Reffner said...

Wow, this is great, Mary! You used the metaphor of the trail so well and I loved the pictures. Writing one sentence to attach to your monitor to remind you of your direction is a great idea.

Casey said...

What a fantastic metaphor and I LOVE your picture! (and yes, I just realized I basically quoted Julia's comment--though not intentionally. ;)

Angie Quantrell said...

Love both the photos and the metaphor. Oh, the trails we weave, lose, and find again. Thanks for sharing!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thank you, Julia. Ithe one sentence was one of those fabulous ideas yah just don't forget.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks Case!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks Angie. With God in charge the journey is much easier. Not necessarily shorter,though.