When Your Story Isn’t True
by MW Cook
I was stuck.
Ever been stuck?
On a creative project?
It’s not writer’s block. It’s something different. Something elusive and singularly frustrating. A large, pulsating tumor of Resistance.
This particular Resistance was centered around a certain section of the story. It pricked at me because I knew exactly what needed to happen. I tried every strategy I had heard of to break it.
I tried outlining it to death. Useful, but the Resistance stayed.
I tried leaving it and rewriting other parts of the book. Productive, but the Resistance stayed.
I tried reading lots of fantasy books to jump-start my inspiration. Fun, but the Resistance stayed.
I figured it out last night.
I was bored. Restless. Distracted.
That meant my story wasn’t quite true.
Every good story is true. Even if it never happened.
So if the story is not good, it’s not true. And there are two possibilities when you find that your story is not true.
(a) You have added false things to your story. Is there something false about your plot, characters or world? Falseness stands out in a story like the sound of nails on a board. Find the false and cut it out.
(b) There is some important truth missing.
It was (b). There was something missing. Once I realized it I immediately knew what it was. Scenes. Characters. An entire sub-plot. It’s a lot of stuff. Maybe ten thousand words of stuff. Or more.
Now, if this was any other job I’d be upset about it. I’d be tempted not to add it, because of all the work it’s going to be. It could be a full two weeks of writing. And that’s if all my writing sessions are good ones.
But I wasn’t upset.
I wasn’t discouraged.
I was elated.
It doesn’t matter how much work a good story needs. I’m not too upset that George R.R. Martin took 5 years to write A Dance With Dragons. It was a good story. A true story. It was worth 5 years.
And my story will be worth however long it takes to write.