The Detour Dilemma

I’m looking at a weird detour sign in my writing life. Not sure if it’s a detour worth taking, or one I should just ignore. It might even really be a caution sign. I’m not sure.

I write memoir, nonfiction, devotional-type essays, and poetry (which tends to be concrete and nonfiction). I’ve always said I could never write fiction. I love to read fiction, but I just don’t have the creativity to imagine an entire world and story line to write fiction. I’ll leave it to more creative minds.

This past weekend I took the train to Seattle to visit friends. With 3 ½ hours on the train each way, I thought I’d write in the peace and quiet, sans family interruptions. My plan was to get my nonfiction book submissions ready for the Oregon Christian Writers summer conference submission program. Turned out I put the wrong files on my new computer and the ones I needed are on my dead computer and on a back-up drive.

So I decide to finish reading “On Writing” by Stephen King, which my son gave me for Christmas. I’m intrigued by King’s writing method. He says he almost never plots a story. So, as OCW folks would say, he’s a pantser. Plotting, he says, makes the story stilted and dull. Instead, his books begin with a situation. For example, “Carrie” started as a situation involving an outcast girl with acne who was bullied. Then he added a “what if?” For “Carrie” it was “what if she had telekinetic powers?” Then he just writes what the characters do in that situation. He imagines what would happen if his “what if” came true.

I finished the book on the train ride home and thought, “Well, that was interesting, but I don’t write fiction.” I still had time before arriving in Portland, so I opened my Kindle and remembered I’d downloaded the sample of “Farenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. I’ve been wanting to read it for some time. I love dystopian literature. I started reading it and when I got to the end of the sample I needed to know what happened next. As soon as I got home, I bought it and continued reading.

Then on Monday during my lunch hour I decided to see what the prompt was at dVerse Poets Pub. It involved flash fiction that had to include a certain phrase. You can read what I wrote here. It may not be perfect, but I realized that I apparently can write fiction!

Today I was off work for a medical procedure and while I was resting (per doctor’s orders), I continued to read “Farenheit 451.” I noticed that while Bradbury may have plotted this story, it’s more likely that he started with a situation and a “what if?” For this book, the “what if?” is something like “what if firemen started fires to burn books instead of putting out fires?” I suspect I’ll discover some other “what ifs” as I continue to read.

Then I had this strange idea for a dystopian novel, so I made some “what if” notes in my Color Note app on my phone. As I made dinner, other ideas for how the flash fiction I wrote yesterday could be the seed for the first chapter. The character in my flash fiction, Mary, started filling in some backstory details of how she came across the pregnancy test she used to determine she was pregnant.

And here I am, looking at this detour sign that’s calling me to delve into a writing genre I love to read but have never, ever, ever thought I would write. I think I’ll camp out here for a bit, ponder whether the detour is worth taking or is maybe the only safe way to go.

I am a Jesus Freak, and I don't care who knows it. I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend. My blood family is only part of the larger family of Christ that I belong to. I love to write, especially about my dear Savior.


11 Responses

  1. For me, once I knew I was going to write fiction, I quickly explained to the Lord, I had no clue on how to do it. I sought the Lord and felt He said, “Read mysteries.” Then, I went to the library and started with mysteries beginning with the letter A. I would bring ten novels at a time. If the book didn’t catch my interest in the first thirty pages, I went to the next one. After about three hundred mysteries and reading all of Michael Connelly’s books, a revelation dawned on me: novels move from scene to scene. Write everything that needs to be read about one scene and move on to the next one.

    The one good piece of advice I received from Writer’s Digest and other books about writing – all of which I hate reading – was to take a book from your favorite novelist and use it as your teacher. Discover what the author did and copy it. Thus, Michael Connelly became my teacher. Thanks Michael!

    • That’s what I did with memoir. But I’ve always read dystopian literature and love it. And I should have mentioned in this post that you were the first warning sign that this detour might be coming. 😉

  2. Linda,
    I wrote for that prompt too. I said it was my first fiction piece. Really, it may have been my second, but the first was fiction so laced with truth, so it was kind of a”what if” scenario. I think fiction can make one think about truth, maybe a back door. I think you and I so love the Lord, we are sometimes too aggressive in our presentation. Don’t get me wrong, there are times to be blatantly conspicuous! Then other times, truth can be hidden. Parables and allegories are examples. Poetry is full of metaphors and not until I wrote poetry did I notice many metaphors in scripture.
    It is a learning curve for me. I am learning how to write. We want our words to draw people to the truth, not blind them with it all the time.
    Perhaps we will both be venturing out into this new area. Blessings to you!

    • I find poetry has been a great way to share truth of the Gospel without it being a sledge hammer. I suspect fiction will be as well. I will need God’s help for sure to venture into fiction, especially a speculative fiction novel. It’s a learning curve for sure.

      I also think I need to get back to reading more blogs, especially yours and a few others that I’ve neglected too much. There are never enough hours in the day. But I so appreciate you reading mine and commenting on it. It encourages me, and I know God would like me to be an encouragement to others.

  3. Linda,
    I loved your poem. Beautiful. And…sometimes it is good to be still for a while and listen. Good for you taking time to explore and wonder. Whatever you do, it will be delightful!

  4. I’m with you in having trouble writing fiction, but liking to read it. I really liked reading how you got to where you are right now . . . coming up with a fictional story! We shall see, eh?

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