This has been a week of many lessons for me, not the least of which is that writing a good story is a lot like juggling. Both require the manipulation of objects like balls (or words) to convey the artist’s vision to others. Most importantly, both require keeping at least three balls in the air at once.
When I began writing, I sat at my keyboard and let the brilliant (ahem) ideas roll off my fingertips without a care in the world. I didn’t so much juggle balls as throw them at the wall to see what looked pretty stuck up there (not much). In the good old days, I was clueless about what may be the writing equivalent of the three-ball cascade. Escalating conflict (red ball) dials up the tension in the reader and moves the story forward in a way that makes the reader care about the protagonist, turning points (yellow ball) ends one act and begins another turning the story in a whole new direction, and directly connecting scenes or sequence of events (green ball) transforms the story from a bunch of unrelated things that happen into a seamless, interdependent whole.
I know I’m missing a bunch of balls here (sounds sort of naughty) like structure (which some might consider the blue ball—aka strangled creativity), or determining character arc, which for me may be the ball that finally brings the whole mess down on my head with balls flying out in every direction.
Juggling what I consider to be the vital three (red, green, yellow) is all I can handle right now, but the good news is, I’m finally starting to keep those three in the air. Consequently my story vision is actually beginning to take shape on the page. In the not-to-distance future, I’ll start thinking about what comes next: how my characters will change as the story progresses, the tone and feeling I want my story to invoke, and devising a satisfying slam-bang finish. Still, the trick will be to add these new balls while simultaneously keeping the first three moving.
What story elements are you having difficulty juggling right now?