Creative Limitation

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

Cover via Amazon

{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?