The writing process – step 1: pre-writing.
It starts with a thought, an inspiration, an event that makes me say, “What would happen if…?” In the case of this story, which has a working title of The Connection, it began with a tragedy.
There was a plane crash last year involving a charter flight that carried coaches and other athletic staff from Oklahoma State basketball program. Two of those killed were Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna. After reading about that, it made me wonder, “What if…?” More specifically, what if two people died on a plane crash, and they didn’t really know each other, and they became ghosts, spirits, whatever you want to call them? And what if they didn’t want to go to whatever “afterlife” there might be? What if they had unfinished business here on earth? And what if they helped each other solve their unfinished business? And what if they didn’t know it, not yet, but their unfinished business was actually connected? What if their unfinished business involved each other?
Once I’ve done that, I write an outline, like the picture above.
I sketch out the different settings – in this case it starts at the Philadelphia Airport. Because my real love is movies, the airport is “Scene 1,” which is really Chapter 1, and the important events are listed as “a, b, c, etc.” Those items are written in short phrases, usually not complete sentences, enough for me to know what I meant when I look back at it later. Then Scene 2 and so on, in this case concluding at 19. I don’t like 19, so I’ll probably either add a chapter to reach 20 or combine two and fall back to 18. I’m funny that way. This outline is often called a “plot” of a story. Some writers don’t plot their stories, and some – like me – do. Some unplotted stories are brilliant, and some plotted are not so. Each writer has to work how they’re comfortable. For me, a plot is like a map, and I often use this analogy when people ask my opinion about plotting a story: Imagine going on a trip. You’re going to drive across the country from New York to somewhere. Will you have a better trip if you get a map, look for places along the map to visit, and largely follow that map except for random moments when you might stray a little bit off the map? Or will you have a better time if you just jump in the car and start driving, completely making it up as you go along? For me, I need a map.
The outline could take anywhere from a week to a month, depending how much time you can devote to it. Then comes the easiest part. Step 2: writing, which I will detail in the next post, probably tomorrow.