Monday, 15 July 2013

Stitching Storylines

There are many ways to write a story. Some people read classical books and use them as a basis, some people live in a beautiful town and build their story around the landmarks. Other writers even give themselves challenges, such as writing an entire novel without the letter 'E'; there are a lot of ways to write a story.
For me, personally, I find the trick is the initial Inception point. The moment when your mind conceives of an idea. I see it's potential and build from there. There are a few ways to do this, but for me it's the construction of patterns. I see things that are related and I build from there. These patterns are built by simple inter-relation. I see two things, unrelated, and I find the common ground. Or, you could say, that one of the ways that I build stories is through collecting a series of coincidences.
The Word of the Day is 'COINCIDE'.

Coincide /kō'ənsuyd/ v.i. 1. To be in the same position in time or space. 2. To happen at the same time or period in time. 3. To agree or be the same (in opinion, etc.).

My very first story on this blog was iRobot, a story based on the 2004 science-fiction film I, Robot (which itself was based on the book by Isaac Asimov, but I was more concerned with the movie); as well as the life and death of Steve Jobs, the CEO and lifeblood of Apple Computers.

I wrote the story because I saw a few coincidences between the two stories. Firstly, I noticed the the homophonic titles using Apple's lower-case 'I' marketing gimmick (I, Robot/iRobot). Secondly, both the story of I, Robot and of Apple Computers concerned the death of a leading electronics manufacturer after their company achieved an astounding market share and global recognition (Alfred Lanning/Steve Jobs). Thirdly, they both had a single product with a smooth, caring voice that was designed to help out humans as well as having a name starting with 'S' and ending in an 'ee' sound (Sonny/Siri).

The connections were fascinating to me, and the opportunity was too great to pass up, so I built my story around tying together the two stories, taking pieces from both sides to construct my puzzle. The story is a little old now, so it's not my best piece of work. In fact, it's embarrassingly bad. But I still enjoy reading it for those connections alone. It was a lot of fun finding all the ways the two stories connected.

But that's not the only example of a story I've written from coincidences alone. My second piece of blogfiction was Furby, Herbie & Kirby in the Starlight Derby. The attentive among you may note that all three of these characters have names that rhyme, which is fascinating in itself. But once I noticed this connection, I quickly realized that all three of these characters, famously, don't speak English. Kirby only ever says 'Poyo' or other little phrases. Furby speaks Furbish (with limited vocabulary) and Herbie is a car, so doesn't speak at all. I thought this was interesting. Also, since these were all family-friendly characters, yet exist in entirely different worlds, I was curious to see how they would work together so I built the story around that.

I do this all the time, and if I had to show you all the connections I've made with other stories, especially Duke Forever and his ongoing stories, I'd be here all day. But the purpose of this blog post isn't to show all my working and say "Look at me, so clever,", rather it's to inspire you to find connections yourself and see if they can help you make a story.

For instance, one connection that has always intrigued me is the number 13. It's considered 'Unlucky 13' for a few reasons, one of the big ones being that it was the number of patrons present at the 'Last Supper' of Jesus (according to myth). The number thirteen is a prime number, and doesn't divide evenly into anything but itself and the number 1; but thirteen multiplied by two is: 26.
That number doesn't seem too important, but it's actually the number of letters there are in the Latin Alphabet (the one English uses):
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Okay, small coincidence, nothing much to think about, right? Maybe . . . except that if you multiply twenty-six by two (or thirteen by four), you get: 52
This may be recognizable to you as the number of cards there are in an average French Deck of playing cards.
Which comes right back around to 13 when you remember that there are four different suits in a Standard Deck of Playing Cards: Spades (♠), Hearts (), Clubs (♣) & Diamonds () - each consisting of thirteen cards.

This alone is unimportant. You can't present this to a symposium on the world's discoveries and expect a round of applause; but in the writing of a story, I consider this to be pure gold. Perhaps this can build the backstory, or has something to do with the Magic System. When I make a magic system, I start with the number four. Often with the elements, air, earth, fire & water. Which factor neatly into playing cards. Air/Clubs, Earth/Diamonds, Fire/Spade, Water/Hearts. This could easily adjust the different abilities of the elements, the way they fight, intermingle or react.
Or it could be used for character creation. If I want up to 52 characters, I could just research how the Playing cards relate to Tarot cards, and use their descriptions (and supposed predictions) as a basis for each character. And giving each a name starting with a different letter, I'd only have to repeat each one twice, thanks to the '26 letters' trick, making it easier to keep track).

That's one example, but enough about thirteen, cards & elements. What about something like . . . scissors-paper-rock? You may know it as rock-paper-scissors; roshambo; janken or some such other name. In the game, as I understand it, there are three options: Scissors, which cut paper. Paper, which covers rock & Rock, which smashes scissors. Each element destroys one while being destroyed by another. There are a few ways this could be employed in your story.
Pokémon uses this in its stories, as the first game begins with Bulbasaur, Charmander & Squirtle. As Fire, Water & Plant type pokemon, each is strong against one opponent while weak against another (Fire > Plant > Water > Fire, recurring . . .) and one of the plot points is that no matter which pokémon you choose, your rival chooses the stronger one. A coincidence of three elements that attack and are attacked in perfect symmetry.
In a less aggressive form, what if scissors-paper-rock model were used to construct a Love Triangle? I haven't seen many scenarios where Alex loves Blair & Blair loves Cris; however Cris is pursuing Alex. It could be an interesting story, the trick here is just adjusting the character relationships so that their attraction to other characters coincides with the tactics of the game scissors-paper-rock. I don't write romance myself, but it might be interesting.

That's the beauty of storywriting. Even if you can't find a perfect coincidence, you can write your story in such a way as to put these pieces together. In essence, you find the patterns that work well together, and using your pen you can stitch together each piece of material into something greater, piecing together patches of ideas like squares of cloth for a quilt, to make a story.

These are just examples of patterns that I have found, but once you start seeing these connections for yourself it becomes easier to find even more. I only hope that, perhaps, the patterns you find will help you to write your own stories. In time, you can even make your own patterns, and find ways they interact with one another.
Sometimes this just helps to make unique characters, sometimes it constructs your fantasy world & sometimes it's nothing more than an interesting fact to slip into dialogue - but I find these coincidences can build a more fascinating, interwoven story.

There are multiple ways that seemingly different things coincide. It's stunning how lycanthropy relates to puberty or alcoholism; symptoms of head trauma coincide with the characteristics of alien abduction; religion relates to magic; temporal mechanics relate to music; magical systems relate to computer software; solar systems look so similar to atomic structures; love is like insanity; hatred is like fire & villains are like heroes.

All these connections and many more not only open your eyes to the ways of the world, but can open your readers imaginations to new possibilities. And I wholeheartedly believe that my ability to find patterns along with my ability to write stories is no mere coincidence. So, if you write anything like me, I wish you luck in your quest to find these coincidences and make something of them.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, I'm going to look for the coincidence between Ke$ha the singer & Kesha, a small village in the Hunan province of China . . .

1 comment:

Feel free to make suggestions, ask questions & comment . . .
I would love to read your words.