November 16th, 2017
Like many of you, I suffer from Impostor syndrome. Not all the time, but occasionally, I’m dead certain that I’m doing it wrong. In the grip of one such episode, I became sure that everybody else had a complete outline of the story they wanted to tell before they wrote the first word. I needed to start doing that. How? It’s just not a natural thing for me. I always start with a few characters and a strange situation. The story grows naturally from the characters being true to their own nature. But, I was an impostor, doing it all wrong, so I started googling to find out how to do it right. Eventually, I found this gem from an interview with Stephen King way back in 2000:
“Forget plot, but remember the importance of ‘situation’– Stephen King, The Guardian, October 2000
I won’t try to convince you that I’ve never plotted any more than I’d try to convince you that I’ve never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible. I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.
A strong enough situation renders the whole question of plot moot. The most interesting situations can usually be expressed as a What-if question: What if vampires invaded a small New England village? (Salem’s Lot).
What if a young mother and her son became trapped in their stalled car by a rabid dog? (Cujo).
These were situations which occurred to me - while showering, while driving, while taking my daily walk - and which I eventually turned into books. In no case were they plotted, not even to the extent of a single note jotted on a single piece of scrap paper.”
Holy crap! That’s exactly what I've been doing!