Creative Limitation

Cover of "Story: Substance, Structure, St...

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{So, I decided to start yet another series of posts for the best reasons of all: because this is my blog, and because I can. It’s simply titled, The Magic of Writing—that indefinable, ineffable relationship between the writer and the muse.}

Over the weekend, I glutted myself on books on story craft and architecture as part of my ROW 80 goals. The book that I just finished yesterday was Robert McKee’s Story. I’ve read through that book last year, but it didn’t really speak to me then as it did now. Don’t get me wrong, I thought that book was genius last year, but I hadn’t finished my first WIP yet, and so I didn’t grasp the full significance of the principles then as I did now.

My main A-HA moment came from the principle of Creative Limitation. I’d been floundering for a while in my WIP2, not really knowing where I should go, and I’ve simply discovered that I didn’t know WIP2’s world enough. And, since I didn’t know the world (which is the first step toward a well-told story), I didn’t have internal laws of probability that my characters would follow (read: no conflict, stakes, or reason to read the story).

That may seem like a little thing, but once I started sketching out my world, possibilities, decisions, events started floating up in my mind’s eye. McKee wrote: “Talent is like a muscle: without something to push against, it atrophies. So, we deliberately put rocks in our path, barriers that inspire. We discipline ourselves as to what to do, while we’re boundless as to how to do it.” (We were all teenagers once. The more rules set before us, the more creative we were at bending (but not quite breaking!) them.)

So, you see, creating a world with a set of rules has allowed me to create a list of possible scenes and events that may happen (FYI, list is still growing). Finding the boundaries didn’t kill my imagination, it awakened it. Sure, I like the idea that On The Spot Inspiration can take me through a story, but if I’m honest with myself, I realize that ideas taken from the top of my head are probably regurgitated stories of what I’d seen or read recently, and will come off as cliched or unoriginal.

Really delving into the world, and finding scenes from my brainstorms that are truest to my characters, to their world, and which have never been done quite in the same way, are the scenes that I want to write into my novel.

What has inspired your imagination lately?

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20 thoughts on “Creative Limitation

  1. Erin Brambilla says:

    I think fresh morning air and a cup of coffee are very inspiring :). But I also get excited after I read books on craft and put together the pieces of the puzzle that make me go “Ahh…so that’s how you do it.” The rules are freeing.

    And re: tropes, unoriginal ideas, similar books, etc. The other day I read an awesome book, but after I finished I was like, “This is my WIP almost exactly.” Like, I had a freak-out session over it because the author of said book is awesome. And I’m…me. So if her book is already wonderful and already out, well…BUT, the more I thought about it, the better I felt. It was bare bones stuff that was similar. All the little details and the world of my novel is very different. And I had to remind myself that there are only so many plots in the world and it’s the execution that makes all the difference. (That was freeing too).

    • Liza Kane says:

      OMG, that’s exactly what I think, too! It’s like reading those craft books unlocks something inside my brain and all these cool scenes spill out!

      And, something that I’ve had to tell myself throughout my writing journey: it’s not about the concept, it’s about the execution. I just need to tattoo that on my hand 😉

  2. Aaron says:

    My favorite thing about ideas that come off the top of the head is that they may be regurgitated when they first come out, but over time they take on a life of their own.

    -Aaron

  3. Sierra Gardner says:

    This sounds a little silly, but when I need some inspiration I have to spend some time outside. Preferably in a quiet place with lots of trees. I think I just need to put myself in a place where I can think about things without any outside interruption.

    • Liza Kane says:

      Not silly at all. I like sitting on my living room couch and look outside of my picture window, where I have a lovely view of my side yard…I love seeing all the woodland creatures frolic and play out there. They make me happy! ^_^

  4. Rebecca Enzor says:

    “if I’m honest with myself, I realize that ideas taken from the top of my head are probably regurgitated stories of what I’d seen or read recently, and will come off as cliched or unoriginal.”

    So true. I keep realizing this as I re-write my WIP. Lots of stuff in the original was just me spewing out all my favorite books in random order.

    • Liza Kane says:

      It’s funny: I hate feeling unoriginal…in fact if I see a movie or read another book with a similar concept to mine, I get really sad about it. Now I realize that if I really think about possible choices/scenes my character would make, and choosing the best one that’s the truest to the character, it really doesn’t matter if concepts are similar to what’s out there. What keeps a scene from being cliche is if the choices ring true for my character. Now if only I can remember that, and keep my internal editor quiet! 😀

  5. Jen says:

    I think it’s time I had a brainstorming session! Probably with a bottle of wine and a group of good friends!

    There is an award for you over at my blog.

  6. Jennifer M Eaton says:

    “because this is my blog, and because I can”

    You are Toooo funny! I love that opening!

    It’s great to have the “scope” of the world fleshed out. The more I learned about the politics of my world, the more trouble I can get my MC in. I try to be careful, though, not to get to into the politics in the novel, though… just breif mentions here and there. I don’t want the story to be about the politics, but I NEED to be clear on what they are.

    • Liza Kane says:

      heehee, yeah, “because I can… *that’s* the magic of writing 😉

      And I can’t believe I’ve put off developing the world for this long…just one day of brainstorming has revived my love for this story. Seriously!

      I also agree with you: I have “political” things in my novel, but my novel is NOT about those things. It’s just how the world is, you know?

      Thanks for sharing!

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