YA Scifi Inspiration

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Tue Apr 13, 2021 7:52 am Post

I'm a high school senior attempting to write a post-apocalyptic YA novel. Lately, I can't find the creativity to write more than just a paragraph, and it's really bugging me. Any recommendations on where or how I can get inspiration to get my creative juices flowing?

P.s. I'm not sitting idle. I'm working on worldbuilding and character profiles as much as possible, but I barely make progress on the "writing" part.

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Tue Apr 13, 2021 1:28 pm Post

You can find libraries of books on this subject, which I interpret to mean how do I get from the first paragraph to the last paragraph. I have some thoughts but you should be aware that there are many more thoughts and some of them contradict what I am about to say.

There is a spectrum of the writing process. Some are pantsers who just start writing and fix any problems in the revision process. Some are planners who write outlines and have a pretty good idea of what they are going to do before they start out. I am more a planner than a pantser and that informs my advice.

Regardless of your approach, I think that it is important that you know where the story will end up. For example, who will still be alive? Will their quests be satisfied? What moral lesson will the story impart to the reader? Although it is likely that you will change this ending (the death of a particular character might be just too hard to pull off), you at least have an anchor point.

Given this anchor, you have two possible approaches to fill in the rest of the story.

One is to write the story backward. Backup from the last scene. Think about what possible states the story could be in that, with the appropriate action, could end up with the final scene. For example, you decide that the villain has to die in this scene. Now think of all of the ways that could happen. Who does the deed? Or is it some natural process that takes care of business? Does the villain know it is going to happen or it is a complete surprise? In either case, does the villain make a final speech? And so on.

Now since you are just starting out, I would suggest that you write several alternative scenes, each of which handles a different set of answers to the above questions. If you are using Scrivener (and you should), you can move these scenes around, tag them with various status values, and so much more. You could create additional scenes that combine the good parts of other alternate scenes. None of these (with the exception of the last one) have to be complete or refined or worthy of showing to anyone else. These are scribblings that may or may not lead to something good.

You could also write the story forward. The story starts here with these characters. Now what happens. Now, just as with the backwards approach, you should write up possible alternatives. For example, the cast members are in Boston and you want them to advance to Cambridge across the river with at least one of the cast emotionally bruised. List the possible ways to get from Boston to Cambridge: walking, biking, via car, via public transportation, swimming, via trebuchet, and so on. List the possible cast members who could be bruised and what could cause that bruising. List the reasons that would cause the cast to want/need to go to Cambridge. Go through the sketching of alternate scenes, again realizing that these are quick and dirty ways of exploring what could happen in the story. Come up with your best guess at what scene two will be. Repeat the process with scene three. And four, five, six, and so on.

Now if you hit a brick wall (you have taken all of the cast off the table, oops), you can backtrack and use your sketching notes to pick out a different path.

My advice boils down to this: collect possibilities and play with them. Most combinations will be silly or absurd. That is the cost of quality writing. But a few will be wonderful. That is the payoff for quality writing.

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Wed Apr 28, 2021 8:46 pm Post

Inspiration is found when working on what matters most and what you as the author need most. Sometimes that's taking a break, or focusing on organization, or ignoring all that and pushing through to write. In this latter case it's breaking through that proverbial shit and enduring the smell until protruding out in the light until just enough of you is where clarity and vision are.

So, if inspiration is not present or coming, it suggests procrastination from what is needed in favor of doing what is easier. Not "sitting idle," world-building, character profiles, etc. is not writing and likely is easier for you than writing. Am I wrong?

Oh, I know people say world-building, characters profiles, etc. is writing, but that greatly depends on your unique brain structure and integration. And typically--initially--it can be writing, but with time and how we as humans are wired, with our crossover brain patterns, it can become factual and left-brained, list-like, which does not embrace creative juices, and actually hinders creativity as more and more established facts play against fiction.

On this, welcome to the club, and in understanding why writing is so damn hard. So, what I do when I hit where you're at? I find roleplay and questions stir the stagnant waters of creativity. Things like talking to my character.

"Okay [character's name], here's your scene and we know the stakes, Or do you know the stakes? [I seriously wait for a reply, until I hear their voice.] Okay then, surprise me. What is everyone missing about this scene or situation? And what will you do to make me care about your role in it?"

I wait and listen again. I then ask the supporting characters similar questions. "How do you plan to support this scene in a powerful but not distracting way?" I make the setting a character as if some invisible effects person is there, (Setting is a character.) I ask, "When they open the window, what's going to happen? Why do we need that?" . . . eventually i get to, "Okay. Okay. Glad we're all on this page [this literal page]. Places people. Now, ACTION!"

The shift is to creativity and understanding. When I'm ready, I literally have the blank page before me, and I laugh, cry, get angry, etc. as they surprise me, disappoint me, thrill me, scare me, even inspire me. Here, ideas and inspiration are not lacking; it becomes more of a matter of what I must cut.

Of course, the mere fact of having a conversation with someone that is not technically there is clinically schizophrenic. I embrace this perception, because it's creative. And forcefully so. Thus my method in this madness is that in doing this, I shift the pressure on to my characters and take it off myself. They perform or get the axe from the scene, and enough axes from enough scenes means they are regulated to extras. My characters want to perform for me. And if for some reason, they're not feeling it as the scene unfolds, I move to another one. But literally every day it's a question of constant revelation as I treat everything like actors or effect professionals in my mind. I do NOT stop the take--stop the action--to jot notes for what must come or something they revealed. I am the genius, they need to know that. The scene must complete. Then, and only then, do I move on with something their genius--which they'll likely never get credit for--may have revealed which might be of value to some potential scene in the future. It's cutthroat, but that's how I like it.

And when I'm in this state, only emergencies of blood, death, or similar importance in the real world have the right to interrupt my role as director/writer. Because I've learned switching out of creative mode to organizational mode or real world mode is the killer of momentum when something is not finished.

With you being in high school, with today's ridiculous standards of testing and failed educational systems, where teachers are becoming more like clinicians; kids like yourself are pressured to take this class, do this extracurricular activity, prove you can pass an eye test for colleges/universities or demonstrate that you have risen above your peers to embrace only more debt . . . your time to explore and play is being taken from you. My children's recess was being supplanted for "knowledge" instead of play. Play, what every child must do to learn and consequently every author must continue to do; you must claim it back, even if it makes you appear insane to those around you.

Learn to say, "No," so you can say "Yes," to what you value and dream of. The price we pay is often in the "No's," we're willing to say, with all their loss of opportunity and association, because doing so allows us the actual time to say, "Yes," to the things that matter to us.

Begin the questions, run the scene as I suggested. See if it helps. And hopefully we'll see you and your works in print. :D