If you have spent any amount of time with children you are probably familiar with the sentiment, in one form or another. Try telling a three or four-year old a slightly different version of a beloved story – chances are that they will inform you that you are telling the story wrong. Or prepare a snack differently than their parents do (or than you’ve done in the past) and you’ll find out that you are doing it wrong. Or, perhaps I’ve just had the opportunity to work with a large proportion of opinionated and strong-willed children. But sometimes there is wisdom in these words. And sometimes they will be surprised to find that the way you are doing something works
just as well, or they like the way that you tell the story as much, or more, as the one they are accustomed to. But lately, I’ve realized, I’ve been doing it wrong. I have been trapping myself in a box of expectations, holding myself to an idea that I am supposed to approach something in one certain way – when the reality is that another approach makes more sense. Disparate Threads, to be precise. I’ve been doing it wrong.
One of the reasons I decided that I wanted to try this story as a serialized story on my blog is because I thought it would lend itself well to such a thing. And then I sat down and started to try to plot it out in a way that would make sense for a novel. But it is not going to be a novel. This is not a story that will be confined into the bound pages of a book, to be picked up and read straight through in a clear chronological order. As a serialized story it’s something that, potentially, people may pick up in the middle of the story. And they might decide they want to read through the entirety of one characters thread in one sitting, and then go onto another characters. Or they might want to read it in chunks and pieces, a little of one thread, a little of another.
And all of that is possible… because the only organization I am imposing is in the order with which I decide to post each segment, and the ways I tag them and provide ideas for navigation. But once it’s on the page, it’s up to the reader how they want to read it. And while it is somewhat unusual for someone to pick up a novel and start reading halfway through the book, I don’t think it’s so unusual for such a thing to happen with something on a blog. And so I’ve been doing it wrong. I’ve been trying to confine myself to a novel. To a relatively linear process, where there is a sense of obligation to lay out all the key characters fairly early in the process. Where I have a determined amount of time/space in which to tell the full story, and therefore have to figure out the weight of different moments. But if I am telling the story on a blog, I can approach it in a different manner. I can envision it as a wider net – a woven piece of work (because I am drawn to those weaving metaphors) – in which each story carries its own path, with places that it intersects and meets, creating a larger piece of work.
It is not the same story without each thread, but the threads do not necessarily come to the same end, they don’t start at the same point, and they don’t carry the same weight at the same time. So I can have freedom. I can (and should) shift my paradigm, look instead to other ways to format things, to think about different ways.
It’s not like there aren’t models out there for me to use (serialized stories, and web-comics, are primary in my thoughts). And I’ve been trying to think “outside the box” in lots of different ways anyhow — in many areas of my life. So.. an adventure!
I shall see how it works, as I continue to map out each story and figure out how I want to first present them. And I will try, very hard, to allow myself to explore outside my normal approach to plotting out a story. This new approach to plotting/sketching got a turn at the “multi-colored sticky-notes on a large piece of cardboard” approach the kind of organizing/craft project that is loads of fun to me.
I’m finding myself reminded of the answers to one of those online quizzes that a friend of mine took, which informed her that she didn’t think about fitting into the box, because she didn’t even know where the box was — or something along those lines. And that’s the thing I need to be doing now, throw out that box and let my story roam. 🙂
Has anyone else tackled a story like this, where you are stepping out of the normal confines and conventions that one would expect from something that would be put into print? As I’m getting more and more into it I’m finding it to be a relatively freeing experience.