Summerizing the Complex

Whoever said that imagination is both a gift and a curse was spot on, I think.

I took a leap this morning and started working on one of my five different novel ideas for the first time in several months. Since I now have this very handy new tablet/laptop, I feel comfortable starting to work on those again. I picked the one that I think will be the second easiest to get on paper, if not get published (a girl can dream, right?).

There are a few different schools of thought on the types of people who attempt to write novels (or anything, really). There are those who write freely, without a fully realized frame for their story; there are those who write after extensive outlining; and there are those who do some combination of the above.

When I was younger – twelve or thirteen – I was definitely the first one. In fact, I wrote the hectic first drafts of an entire trilogy when I was that age – a grand total of about six hundred pages of Number 12 Times New Roman teen-aged angst. One of my greatest sorrows was losing all of that work when my computer crashed . . . even if it was just an intense teen-style drama.

I didn’t commit myself fully to another novel endeavor until I was  seventeen and that was somewhat outlined, but really had no driving plot and the characters were – in retrospect – very one dimensional, because I focused too much on the back ground stories that didn’t actually make it into the draft. I ended up losing most of that work, too, when my sister’s dog used my USB drive as a chew-toy.

The next time I decided to sit down and attempt a novel, I was twenty and finished a 60,000 word first draft for NaNoWriMo. I created an outline using a modified version of the Snow-Flake Method and was (and am still) pretty happy with the rough draft. But it has now been four years since I wrote it. I still like it. I like the characters and I like the imagery, but I feel, now, that it is part of a larger series and I’m not quite ready to dive back into that particular world.

That particular one is one of the Five. I think of this group of novel ideas as the Five, because they have been consistently rolling around in my mind for the past several years. There’s something nearly mythic to them, now, because I feel so familiar with them and yet have never managed to fully finish any of them.

In list form, they are most simply summarized as:

  1. The horror/dry comedy about a twenty-something who can see the invisible monsters . . . you know, those things that go bump in the night. As if things aren’t already complicated, she has to deal with an incredibly attractive Irish transplant who has his own shadowy past. (This is the one I have the finished rough draft for.)
  2. The coming of age story. A seventeen year old wins a scholarship opportunity through a global corporation – it’s an all expenses paid education in exchange for participating in a three month product trial. The only catch is that the product seems to have a mind of it’s own.
  3. The quirky romance in which a large family’s matriarch dies . . . willing her entire estate to her estranged granddaughter . . . with a few conditions.
  4. The introspective supernatural drama in which an Atheistic woman finds herself haunted by the same individuals who seemed to drive her mother to insanity and an untimely death. A stranger approaches her with an unusual offer.
  5. The darker under-ground type of story. A suicidal young woman determined to live for the sake of her family is shaken by the premise of the newest hit reality show, but things are never as simple as they seem and she finds herself torn between the concepts of personal freedom and doing what’s right for the majority.

Of course, these five summaries are not all encompassing of the stories themselves. The first doesn’t include mention of the quirky mentor-character, because he’s far from central to the story. And the third doesn’t brush on the actual conditions that are entailed.

The fifth is the one I’m actually working on, currently. And it’s my intent to outline it fully. I’m going to be totally loyal to the Snow-Flake Method, this time around. I know the essential story. I got as far as finishing the prologue and getting some key scenes in mind, last year, but ended up letting it drop to the side when I became busier with work and accidentally killed my old laptop (suffice it to say that it was lactose intolerant).

I’ve toyed with doing it as a script and I’ve toyed with doing it as a novel, but I feel that I’ll be happier doing it as a novel, even though I really think it would make a cool movie (I always visual the film-making style of Ink, when I start daydreaming about that).

The first step in the Snow-Flake Method is to write a one sentence summary of your story. My one sentence summary is a bit wordy, compared to the concise ones used as examples in the method. It’s difficult for me to break my idea down into one core line. I am too close, almost, to the little details of the story and it’s hard for me to detach from the ancillary bits enough to form a simple statement about the entirety.

The method recommends taking an hour to develop this one sentence summary. I spent about an hour and a half (while also watching Youtube clips from the Atheist Experience). I came up with this: A suicidal young woman determined to live for the sake of her family is shaken by the premise of the newest hit reality show, but things are never as simple as they seem and she finds herself torn between the concepts of personal freedom and doing what’s right for the majority. (Yes, that is what is typed above.)

This is much longer than the ideal one sentence summary.

A better summary might be, “A suicidal young woman is tempted by the premise of a new reality show, but  her plans are waylaid by a crisis that seems like it will leave her the caretaker of her younger sisters.” Or even, “A new reality show seems to be the solution to a suicidal young woman’s problem, but life intervenes in unexpected ways.”

All three of those are simplified versions of a more complex story. They all have their own merits, I suppose, but the first one is the one I like the best, as the writer, because I feel it does the most justice to the plot – even though it also leaves a lot out. Probably, the best one from a TV Guide perspective would be the third one, because of how short it is, even though the second has the more emotional hook.

The only thing I really don’t like about the last option is how very vague it is. “Unexpected ways,” is almost unbearably open-ended and my understanding of the one sentence summary is that it’s supposed to include more details . . . just briefly. *sigh*

Hopefully, the next stage of the Snow-Flake Method will be a bit easier for my to wrap my brain around. Also, please don’t attempt to utilize any of the above mentioned plots (though elements of all of them are common and, of course, not subject to being any one person’s intellectual property). I’ll be sad if someone else publishes my ideas before I get around to them. Though I’m sure I would not be the first person to procrastinate their way out of a theoretical publishing deal.

*Also, it’s the first day of Spring! Yay for new flowers and butterflies!



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