Best Laid Plans

I was at Conflux this weekend just gone, so I sort of wish I had something more insightful to say – more on the side of the posts it seems I used to be able to just churn out discussing technique or grammar nuances or paragraph structure (though to be perfectly honest, I sometimes fear going back and reading those because I know many of my opinions have changed dramatically.) But that isn’t exactly what I have today. I’m getting a bit more personal today, as seems to be the case on this blog recently.

As many of you know, The Ferryman’s Apprentice season 4 is due soon, and that will be the final section of the story. After that, I have to decide what to do next. If you know me, you’d think that would be easy. I have no fewer than four (and possibly five or six) drafts and half-drafts sitting on the computer just ready to polish up. And that’s before you consider the 70-page-strong list of ideas and prompts I have collected over the however many years since I started keeping track of them. Logically, I should have absolutely no shortage of ideas to turn into a serial-style story. But obviously if that were the case, I would be writing a vaguely teasing blog post about a new story idea that’s coming out, or in the works. Instead, I’m writing a vaguely whiny post about how many ideas I should have but don’t.

So what gives?

Well, mostly, its’ the structure. I think of stories in terms of their structure feeding into the narrative and vice versa. The Ferryman’s Apprentice, for example, works extremely well as a serial (especially, I feel, in the first half season where the structure of the River is extremely episodic.) But I have now started three stories that I thought would be perfect for the more long-term, piecemeal style, but that I have almost immediately decided were missing something by not being written in another style. Or they would work as serials, but I found I wanted to do things with structure that I don’t know if I can do on the blog (yet). Or they’ll be great. but I need to put time into learning some new skill before I can present the story the way I really want to. That really is the problem – the structure just never quite fits the story the way I want it to.

To solve this problem, I have two options. Either I keep looking and find a story that really fits the structure I have the skills, knowledge, and platform for. Or … I could choose a story where the structure doesn’t matter much either way. The first is, obviously, the ideal, the option I’d take if I had infinite time and no deadlines. In a perfect world, the perfect way to fit a story into this structure would strike me in a bolt of divine inspiration sometime between now and when I finish editing/rewriting The King’s City. Ideally this would also involve one of the stories that I already have some progress on, but I’ll take a new story or something from one of my prompts in a pinch.But I really think what will finally happen is that second option… because slowly and surely I am forced to admit that sometimes, a good story can just be a good story, and it can be adjusted to be told in a variety of ways without needing to feed in structure and story so directly. There are ways to use different mediums to tell a story, and here’s the thing I didn’t realise I thought: without that making the story too generic. That’s an odd thought now I unpack it – the idea that there is only a single ‘right’ medium for any story. It actually goes against something else I believe very strongly: that any story can be satisfyingly and successfully adapted, provided that the adapter/s thoroughly understand the differences in the mediums and make, say, a good movie, not a movie that is trying to be a book. So, really, it shouldn’t feel that wrong to me to take a story and mould it around the structure I need, unless it’s glaringly obvious that something isn’t working. I guess the thing I’m trying to convince myself of is this: Some stories will flourish best in a particular mode of telling. Some are more focused on content than structure. And that doesn’t mean looking at them harder to find the Cinderella’s Shoe of structure. It means taking full advantage of that malleability and making the story work however you need it to be told.Still hoping for that divine inspiration, though.

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