Here’s something that I don’t think is often talked about in writing books or writing magazines. I can’t recall it being mentioned in the writing classes I’ve taken, including the MFA workshops I was in when I was getting my Masters in Writing. I think there’s a certain atmosphere in most MFA programs that brands any talk about story as belonging to popular fiction and so from the wrong side of the tracks.
I don’t believe that. All kinds of fiction need story. The great writers of the past, with notable exceptions of course because great means doing uniquely powerful work and that breaks all rules, have also been good storytellers.
Anyway, be that as it may, I think the topic of INVENTION isn’t talked about much. Invention though can make a huge difference in the quality of work.
Now maybe at the sentence and language level invention is talked about. Inventive style and use of language is applauded. What I’m talking about though is coming up with inventive twists and turns of a story or inventive ideas that propel scenes or give characters a compelling otherness that’s hard to resist as a reader.
Maybe one difficulty of talking about it is that inventiveness seems to belong more on the side of talent than craft. To my mind though, like the use of language, while certainly partly innate to the writer, aspects of it can be encouraged.
Don’t be satisfied with obvious actions. Looks for places where characters might act in less obvious ways.
Allow yourself the freedom to wander wildly in a first draft when it comes to plot direction. You will, of course, go in many wrong directions and need to REVISE and REWRITE. Invention, by its nature, carries with it many failures. Ask any inventor. You will pay for your attempts, but those attempts may be the very thing that makes your story unique.