Yes, AND….

Posted: March 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

While watching an episode of The Story Board, Wil Wheaton made a comment about how in acting (specifically improvisation) you always say, “yes” to your partner’s suggestion. The caveat to that is you can say “And…” to add in whatever you would like to say. For example:

“Wow, that’s a really big elephant you have there.”

“Yes, and I just had him potty trained.”

“Yes, you did have him potty trained and I can see the pull-up he’s wearing are working wonders.”

“Yes, and they go well with his wrinkly gray skin.”

One can continue in that fashion for a long time. (In fact, there’s a Comedy Sport game that goes exactly like that.) You never say, “no,” during improvisation. Saying, “no” kills any and all creativity. You have to live in the “yes” world where all things are possible and you are willing to accept them to further things along.

I mention this because I had a moment this last week where I felt like I was in an improvisational skit with my writing. I’ve been working on this novel/book/story for about a year. I’ve written bits and pieces, I’ve written whole chapters, I have a basic outline. You get the idea. This is not something I just conceived during the past few days; this is something I’ve been working on for a while, so much so that I’ve started rewriting it to tighten up the parts I have and add parts I notice I’m missing. This book has yet to be finished, but I’m looking at that fact as a minor detail. The more I work on the rewrite, the more the story has formed into something more than I first believed it was.

When I started, the story had one narrator. It was third person limited so everything was technically linked to what the character was experiencing. That was tossed because the more I looked at what I wanted to tell the more I realized there were places the character wasn’t going to go that needed to be told. A second POV character was added, again going with the limited third person and away I went. Now, I’m rewriting, and it hits me as my brain says, “Yes, and we need to follow this character, too.” A third character. I thought it over and it seemed like a good idea, I’d give it a try and if it didn’t work out it would be easy enough to just delete those scenes completely. My writing is malleable; I can go with the flow.

Fast forward to this last week. Sitting in my car I’m envisioning how to manage a specific plot point and my brain whispers in my ears, “Yes, and this story takes place in the present.”

The present?

This whole story is an expanded fairytale set in a made up world. It won’t work as a…well, that would be an interesting change of pace. I can try that.

So I set to work rewriting the first chapter yet again, this time set in the present day United States. Problems pop up in relation to how to make this all work with a new setting but they solve themselves. Now I stand upon a precipice. I originally started out with one kind of  story and it has morphed. I like to think that the experience of writing a novel is about the journey, not the end result. Yes, I’d like it to be something that isn’t a complete pile of steaming dung but at the same time this has always been about learning to write again. I had a long break from writing by myself, and a break from writing completely. The problem is that I’ve fallen in love with the idea of it taking place as an Urban Fantasy kind of thing instead of the standard setting of “Once upon a time”. Is it just a fling? If I continue working with the new setting will I look at the end and say, “Wow, that was different…but I should have stuck with the original idea”?

I like both settings. Picking one at the moment is like picking between my hypothetical children, so much so that I thought about creating twins. No lie. I actually entertained the idea of writing one as planned and another in the new setting, putting them side by side when I finish and deciding which one gets another draft. The idea is insanity. Almost just as crazy is continuing down the road with this new idea, accepting it saying, “Yes, it is set in the modern world AND it will be fantastic” and then realizing a couple chapters in that it isn’t what I want at all. I don’t want a potty trained elephant wearing pull-ups.

Or do I?


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